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Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 9 
The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 9.
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Table of Contents
MISCELLANEOUS PAPERS (Continued)
MISCELLANEOUS PAPERS[Back to Table of Contents]
DEFENCE OF THE FUNDING SYSTEM
II[Back to Table of Contents]
the assumption of the state debts
|Lieut.-Cols.||Majors.||Capt’s.||Subalterns.||Sergeants.||Rank and File.|
|Lt.-Col. Hamilton’s battalion....................||4|
|Lt.-Col. Gimat’s battalion||1||2||1||1||7||15|
|Lt.-Col. Laurens’s detachment..................||1||1||5|
|Corps of Sappers and Miners||1||1|
to mrs. hamilton
Oct. 16, 1781.
Two nights ago, my Eliza, my duty and my honor obliged me to take a step in which your happiness was too much risked. I commanded an attack upon one of the enemy’s redoubts; we carried it in an instant, and with little loss. You will see the particulars in the Philadelphia papers. There will be, certainly, nothing more of this kind; all the rest will be by approach; and if there should be another occasion, it will not fall to my turn to execute it.1[Back to Table of Contents]
March 1, 1782.
I need not observe to your Excellency that respect for the opinion of Congress will not permit me to be indifferent to the impressions they may receive of my conduct. On this principle, though I do not think the subject of the enclosed letter of sufficient importance to request an official communication of it, yet I should be happy it might in some way be known to the members of that honorable body. Should they hereafter learn that, though retained on the list of their officers, I am not in the execution of the duties of my station, I wish them to be sensible that it is not a diminution of zeal which induces me voluntarily to withdraw my services, but that I only refrain from intruding them when circumstances seem to have made them either not necessary or not desired; and that I shall not receive emoluments without performing the conditions to which they were annexed. I also wish them to be apprised upon what footing my future continuance in the army is placed, that they may judge how far it is expedient to permit it. I therefore take the liberty to request the favor of your Excellency to impart the knowledge of my situation in such manner as you think most convenient.[Back to Table of Contents]
March 1, 1782.
Your Excellency will, I am persuaded, readily admit the force of this sentiment, that though it is the duty of a good citizen to devote his services to the public when it has occasion for them, he cannot with propriety or delicacy to himself obtrude them when it either has, or appears to have none. The difficulties I experienced last campaign in obtaining a command will not suffer me to make any further application on that head.
As I have many reasons to consider my being employed hereafter in a precarious light, the bare possibility of rendering an equivalent will not justify to my scruples the receiving any future emoluments from my commission. I therefore renounce, from this time, all claim to the compensations attached to my military station during the war or afterwards. But I have motives which will not permit me to resolve on a total resignation. I sincerely hope a prosperous train of affairs may continue to make it no inconvenience to decline the services of persons whose zeal, in worse times, was found not altogether useless; but as the most promising appearances are often reversed by unforeseen disasters, and as unfortunate events may again make the same zeal of some value, I am unwilling to put it out of my power to renew my exertions in the common cause in the line in which I have hitherto acted.
I shall accordingly retain my rank while I am permitted to do it, and take this opportunity to declare that I shall be at all times ready to obey the call of the public in any capacity, civil or military (consistent with what I owe to myself), in which there may be a prospect of my contributing to the final attainment of the object for which I embarked in the service.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to richard k. meade2
A half hour since brought me the pleasure of your letter of December last. It went to Albany and came from thence to this place. I heartily felicitate you on the birth of your daughter. I can well conceive your happiness on that occasion by that which I feel on a similar one. Indeed, the sensations of a tender father of the child of a beloved mother can only be conceived by those who have experienced them.
Your heart, my dear Meade, is peculiarly formed for enjoyments of this kind. You have every right to be a happy husband—a happy father. You have every prospect of being so. I hope your felicity may never be interrupted.
You cannot imagine how entirely domestic I am growing. I lose all taste for the pursuits of ambition. I sigh for nothing but the company of my wife and my baby. The ties of duty alone, or imagined duty, keep me from renouncing public life altogether. It is, however, probable I may not any longer be engaged in it. I have explained to you the difficulties which I met with in obtaining a command last campaign. I thought it incompatible with the delicacy due to myself to make any application this campaign. I have expressed this sentiment in a letter to the General, and, retaining my rank only, have relinquished the emoluments of my commission, declaring myself, notwithstanding, ready at all times to obey the calls of the public. I don’t expect to hear any of these, unless the state of our affairs should change for the worse, and, lest by any unforeseen accident that would happen, I choose to keep myself in a situation again to contribute my aid. This prevents a total resignation.
You were right in supposing I neglected to prepare what I promised you at Philadelphia. The truth is I was in such a hurry to get home that I could think of nothing else. As I set out to-morrow morning for Albany, I cannot from this place send you the matter you wish.
Imagine, my dear Meade, what pleasure it must give Eliza and myself to know that Mrs. Meade interests herself in us. Without a personal acquaintance, we have been long attached to her. My visit at Mr. Fitzhugh’s confirmed my partiality. Betsy is so fond of your family that she proposes to form a match between her boy and your girl, provided you will engage to make the latter as amiable as her mother.
Truly, my dear Meade, I often regret that fortune has cast our residence at such a distance from each other. It would be a serious addition to my happiness if we lived where I could see you every day, but fate has determined it otherwise. I am a little hurried, and can only request, in addition, that you will present me most affectionately to Mrs. Meade, and believe me to be, etc.[Back to Table of Contents]
to robert morris
May 18, 1782.
I had this day the honor of receiving your letter of the 2d instant, and am much obliged by the mark of your confidence which it contains, and to Col. Stewart for his friendly intentions upon the occasion.
My military situation has indeed become so negative, that I have no motive to continue in it; and if my services could be of importance to the public in a civil line, I should cheerfully obey its command. But the plan which I have marked out to myself is the profession of the law, and I am now engaged in a course of studies for that purpose. Time is so precious to me that I could not put myself in the way of any interruptions, unless for an object of consequence to the public or to myself. The present is not of this nature. Such are the circumstances of this State, the benefit arising from the office you propose would not, during the war, exceed yearly one hundred pounds; for, unfortunately, I am persuaded it will not pay annually into the Continental treasury above forty thousand pounds; and, on a peace establishment, this will not be for some time to come much more than doubled. You will perceive, sir, that an engagement of this kind does not correspond with my views, and does not afford a sufficient inducement to relinquish them.
I am not the less sensible of the obliging motives which dictated the offer, and it will be an additional one to that respect and esteem with which I have the honor to be, etc.[Back to Table of Contents]
to general knox
June 7, 1782.
We are told here that there is a British officer coming on from Cornwallis’ army to be executed by way of retaliation for the murder of Capt. Huddy. As this appears to me clearly to be an ill-timed proceeding, and if persisted in will be derogatory to the national character, I cannot forbear communicating to you my ideas upon the subject. A sacrifice of this sort is entirely repugnant to the genius of the age we live in, and is without example in modern history, nor can it fail to be considered in Europe as wanton and unnecessary. It appears that the enemy (from necessity, I grant, but the operation is the same) have changed their system and adopted a more humane one; and, therefore, the only justifying motive of retaliation—the preventing a repetition of cruelty—ceases. But if this were not the case, so solemn and deliberate a sacrifice of the innocent for the guilty must be condemned on the present received notions of humanity, and encourage an opinion that we are, in a certain degree, in a state of barbarism. Our affairs are now in a prosperous train, and so vigorous—I would rather say so violent—a measure would want the plea of necessity. It would argue meanness in us that at this late stage of the war, in the midst of success, we should suddenly depart from that temper with which we have all along borne with a great and more frequent provocation. The death of André could not have been dispensed with, but it must still be viewed at a distance as an act of rigid justice. If we wreak our resentment on an innocent person, it will be suspected that we are too fond of executions. I am persuaded it will have an influence peculiarly unfavorable to the General’s character.
If it is seriously believed that in this advanced stage of affairs retaliation is necessary, let another mode be chosen. Let under actors be employed, and let the authority by which it is done be wrapt in obscurity and doubt. Let us endeavor to make it fall upon those who have had a direct or indirect share in the guilt. Let not the Commander-in-Chief—considered as the first and most respectable character among us—come forward in person and be the avowed author of an act at which every humane feeling revolts. Let us at least have as much address as the enemy; and, if we must have victims, appoint some obscure agents to perform the ceremony and bear the odium which must always attend even justice itself when directed by extreme severity.
For my own part, my dear sir, I think a business of this complexion entirely out of season. The time for it, if there ever was one, is past.
But it is said that the Commander-in-Chief has pledged himself for it and cannot recede. Inconsistency in this case would be better than consistency. But pretexts may be found and will be readily admitted in favor of humanity. Carleton will in all probability do something like apology and concession. He will give appearances of preventing everything of the kind in future. Let the General appear to be satisfied with these appearances. The steps Carleton is said to have taken to suppress the refugee incursions will give the better color to lenity.
I address myself to you upon this occasion, because I know your liberality and your influence with the General. If you are of my opinion, I am sure you will employ it, if it should not be too late. I would not think a letter necessary, but I know how apt men are to be actuated by the circumstances which immediately surround them, and to be led into an approbation of measures which, in another situation, they would disapprove. Mrs. Hamilton joins me in compliments to Mrs. Knox.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to robert morris
June 17, 1782.
The letter which you did me the honor to write me, of the 4th instant, came to my hands too late to permit me to answer it by the return of the same post. The explanation you give of your intention in your late offer makes it an object that will fully compensate for the time it will deduct from my other occupations. In accepting it, I have only one scruple, arising from a doubt whether the service I can render in the present state of things will be an equivalent for the compensation. The whole system (if it may be so called) of taxation in this State is radically vicious, burthensome to the people, and unproductive to government. As the matter now stands, there seems to be little for a continental receiver to do. The whole business appears to be thrown into the hands of the county treasurers, nor do I find that there is any appropriation made of any part of the taxes collected to continental purposes, or any provision to authorize payment to the officer you appoint; this, however, must be made. There is only one way in which I can imagine a prospect of being materially useful—that is, in seconding your application to the State. In popular assemblies much may sometimes be brought about by personal discussions, by entering into details and combating objections as they rise. If it should at any time be thought advisable by you to empower me to act in this capacity, I shall be happy to do every thing that depends on me to effectuate your views. I flatter myself to you, sir, I need not profess that I suggest this, not from a desire to augment the importance of office, but to advance the public interest.
It is of primary moment to me as soon as possible to take my station in the law, and on this consideration I am pressing to qualify myself for admission to next term, which will be the latter end of July. After this, if you think an interview with me necessary I will wait upon you in Philadelphia. In the meantime I shall be happy to receive your instructions, and shall direct my attention more particularly to acquiring whatever information may be useful to my future operations. I have read your publications at different times, but as I have not the papers containing them in my possession, it will be necessary that their contents should be comprised in your instructions. A meeting of the Legislature is summoned early in the next month, at which, if I previously receive your orders, it may be possible to put matters in train.
I am truly indebted to you, sir, for the disposition you have manifested upon this occasion; and I shall only add an assurance of my endeavors to justify your confidence and prove to you the sincerity of that respectful attachment with which
I am, sir, etc.[Back to Table of Contents]
to comfort sands1
June 23, 1782.
Mr. Morris having lately offered me the appointment of Receiver of Continental Taxes for this State, I wish to collect as much and as accurate information as possible of the situation of its money concerns. It will be, among other things, of great importance that I should form an idea of the money brought into the State and carried out of it; and, with a view to this, I take the liberty to request you will furnish me with an estimate of what you have reason to think you will lay out in this State in the course of a year in the transactions of your contract business. Mr. Duer has been so obliging as to promise me a sketch of his disbursements in this quarter, and has informed me that you are principally charged with what relates to the supplies of the main army as well as West Point, and will therefore be best able to enlighten me on that head. The calculation may not admit of absolute precision; but if it comes near the truth it will answer. It would be useful that you could distinguish, as nearly as possible, what part will be in specie, what in bank and other notes. As this is a matter that can be attended with no inconvenience to any person, and will be conducive to the public utility, I flatter myself you will favor me with a speedy communication.[Back to Table of Contents]
to robert morris
July 13, 1782.
I have this moment received your letter of the second inst., and as the post will set out on its return in half an hour, I have little more than time to acknowledge the receipt of it.
I shall to-morrow morning commence a journey to Poughkeepsie, where the Legislature are assembled, and I will endeavor by every step in my power to second your views, though, I am sorry to add, without very sanguine expectations. I think it probable the Legislature will do something, but whatever momentary effort they may make, till the entire change of their present system very little will be done. To effect this, mountains of prejudice and particular interest are to be levelled. For my own part, considering the late serious misfortune of our ally, the spirit of reformation, of wisdom, and of unanimity, which seems to have succeeded to that of blunder, perverseness, and dissension in the British Government, and the universal reluctance of these States to do what is right, I cannot help viewing our situation as critical, and I feel it the duty of every citizen to exert his faculties to the utmost to support the measures, especially those solid arrangements of finance on which our safety depends.
I will by the next post forward you the bond executed with proper sureties.
It is not in the spirit of compliment, but of sincerity, I assure you, that the opinion I entertain of him who presides in the department was not one of the smallest motives to my acceptance of the office; nor will that esteem and confidence which makes me now sensibly feel the obliging expressions of your letter fail to have a great share in influencing my future exertions.[Back to Table of Contents]
to governor clinton
July 16, 1782.
I have the honor to inclose your Excellency the copy of a warrant from the Honorable Robert Morris, Esq., Superintendent of the Finances of the United States, by which you will perceive that, agreeable to the resolution of Congress, of the 2d of November last, he has appointed me Receiver of the Continental Taxes of the State. I am therefore to request that the Legislature will be pleased to vest in me the authority required by that resolution.
It is a part of my duty to explain to the Legislature, from time to time, the views of the Superintendent of Finance, in pursuance of the orders of Congress, that they may be the better enabled to judge of the measures most proper to be adopted for an effectual co-operation. For this purpose I pray your Excellency to impart my request, that I may have the honor of a conference with a committee of the two Houses, at such time and place as they may find convenient.[Back to Table of Contents]
to robert morris
July 22, 1782.
Agreeably to my letter to you from Albany, I came to this place and had an interview with a committee of the Legislature, in which I urged the several matters contained in your instructions. I strongly represented the necessity of solid arrangements of finance, and, by way of argument, pointed out all the defects of the present system. I found every man convinced that something was wrong, but few that were willing to recognize the mischief when defined, and consent to the proper remedy. The quantum of taxes already imposed is so great as to make it useless to impose any others to a considerable amount. A bill has, however, passed both Houses, payable in specie, bank notes, or your notes, for eighteen thousand pounds. It is at present appropriated to your order, but I doubt whether some subsequent arrangement will not take place for a different appropriation. The Commander-in-Chief has applied for a quantity of forage, which the Legislature is devising the means of furnishing, and I fear it will finish by diverting the eighteen thousand pounds to that purpose. I have hitherto been able to prevent this, but as it is of indispensable importance to me to leave this place immediately to prepare for my examination, for which I have pledged myself the ensuing term, which is at hand, it is possible, after I have left it, that contrary ideas will prevail. Efforts have been made to introduce a species of negotiable certificates, which I have strenuously opposed. It has not yet taken place, but I am not clear how the matter will terminate.
Should the bill for the eighteen thousand pounds go out in its present form, I cannot hope that it will produce in the treasury above half the sum, such are the vices of our present mode of collection.
A bill has also passed the Assembly for collecting arrearages of taxes, payable in specie, bank notes, your notes, old continental emissions at one hundred and twenty-eight for one, and a species of certificates issued by the State for the purchase of horses. This is now before the Senate. The arrearages are very large.
Both Houses have unanimously passed a set of resolutions, to be transmitted to Congress and the several States, proposing a convention of the States, to enlarge the powers of Congress and vest them with funds. I think this a very eligible step, though I doubt of the concurrence of the other States; but I am certain without it they will never be brought to co-operate in any reasonable or effectual plan. Urge reforms or exertions, and the answer constantly is: What avails it for one State to make them without the concert of the others? It is in vain to expose the futility of this reasoning; it is founded in all those passions which have the strongest influence on the human mind.
The Legislature have also appointed, at my instance, a committee to devise, in its recess, a more effectual system of taxation, and to communicate with me on this subject. A good deal will depend on the success of this attempt. Convinced of the absurdity of multiplying taxes in the present mode, where, in effect, the payment is voluntary, and the money received exhausted in the collection, I have labored chiefly to instil the necessity of a change in the plan, and, though not so rapidly as the exigency of public affairs requires, truth seems to be making some progress.
There is other appropriation to the use of Congress than of the eighteen thousand pounds.
I shall, as soon as possible, give you a full and just view of the situation and temper of this State. This cannot be till after my intended examination; that over, I shall lay myself out in every way that can promote your views and the public good.
I am informed you have an appointment to make of a Commissioner of Accounts for this State. Permit me to suggest the expediency of choosing a citizen of the State; a man who, to the qualifications requisite for the execution of the office, adds an influence in its affairs. I need not particularize the reasons of this suggestion. In my next I will also take the liberty to mention some characters.
I omitted mentioning that the two Houses have also passed a bill, authorizing Congress to adjust the quotas of the States on equitable principles, agreeably to your recommendation. I enclose you the bond executed jointly with General Schuyler.[Back to Table of Contents]
to governor clinton
August 3, 1782.
I have lately received a letter from the Superintendent of Finance, inclosing a copy of a circular - letter from him to the several States, dated twenty-fifth July, ’81, in which he requests information on the following important points.
“What supplies, of every kind, money, provisions, forage, transportation, etc., have been furnished by this State to the United States, since the eighteenth of March, 1780.”
“The amount of the money in the treasury; the sums expected to be there; the times they will probably be brought in; the appropriations.”
“The amount of the different paper currencies in the State; the probable increase, or decrease, of each; and the respective rates of depreciation.”
“The Acts passed since the eighteenth of March, 1780, for raising taxes, furnishing supplies, etc.; the manner they have been executed; the time necessary for them to operate; the consequences of their operation; the policy of the State relative to laying, assessing, levying, and collecting taxes.”
In his letter, which is circular, to the Receivers, he says the answers he has received to these inquiries are few and short of the object; and he therefore urges me to take the most speedy and effectual means in my power, to enable him to form a proper judgment on such of the subjects referred to as the actual state of things renders it important to know.
In compliance with this, I request the favor of your Excellency to inform me what steps have been taken on the several heads of which the above is an abstract; and what progress has been made in the business; particularly with respect to the first article. I shall also be much obliged to you to direct Mr. Holt to furnish me, without delay, with the Acts mentioned in the inclosed list.
Your Excellency must have been too sensible of the necessity of enabling the Director of the Finances of the United States to form a just judgment of the true state of our affairs, to have omitted any measure in your power to procure the fullest information on the several matters submitted to you: and I am persuaded the business is in such a train that little will be left for me to do.
I entreat you will do me the honor to let me hear from you as soon as possible on the subject.
It would promote the public business, if you would be so good as to direct Mr. Banker to supply me with such information as I might call upon him for. He is very obliging, but without some authority for the purpose, there is a delicacy in calling upon him. I wrote at the same time to Mr. Holt, printer for the State, desiring him to forward me the copies of the Acts above mentioned; and telling him that if the Governor did not make satisfaction, I would do it. These Acts were all those relative to finance and supply, from March 18, 1780, to this time.[Back to Table of Contents]
to the county treasurers
August 5, 1782.
It will be of great utility to the State, and essential to the execution of my instructions from the Superintendent of Finance, that I should be able to ascertain, as speedily as possible, the expense attending the collection of taxes within this State. In order to this, I shall be much obliged to you to send me without delay an account of what you have received in your county, since the beginning of the year ’80 to this time, as well for the taxes laid for county purposes, as for those imposed by the Legislature; and of the expenses of every kind attending the collection; those of the supervisors, assessors, the allowance to the collectors and to myself.
When I assure you I want this information for an important purpose, I doubt not you will forward it to me as speedily as it can be prepared, and with as much accuracy as circumstances will permit; by doing which you will serve the public and oblige, sir, etc.[Back to Table of Contents]
to robert morris
August 13, 1782.
I promised you in former letters to give you a full view of the situation and temper of this State. I now sit down to execute that task.
You have already in your possession a pretty just picture of the State, drawn by the Legislature, perhaps too highly colored in some places, but just, and, in the main, true.
It is the opinion of the most sensible men with whom I converse, who are best acquainted with the circumstances of the State, and who are least disposed to exaggerate its distress as an excuse for inactivity, that its faculties for revenue are diminished at least two thirds.
It will not be difficult to conceive this when we consider that five out of the fourteen counties of which the State is composed, including the capital, are in the hands of the enemy; that two and part of a third have revolted; two others have been desolated the greater part by the ravages of the enemy and of our own troops, and the remaining four have more or less suffered partial injuries from the same causes. Adding the fragments of some to repair the losses of others, the efficient property, strength, and force of the State will consist in little more than four counties.
In the distribution of taxes before the war, the city of New York used to be rated at one third of the whole; but this was too high, owing probably to the prevailing of the country influence. Its proper proportion I should judge to have been about one fourth, which serves further to illustrate the probable decrease of the State.
Our population, indeed, is not diminished in the same degree, as many of the inhabitants of the dismembered and ruined counties, who have left their habitations, are dispersed through those which remain; and it would seem that the labor of the additional hands ought to ensure the culture and value of these. But there are many deductions to be made from this apparent advantage: the numbers that have recruited the British army; those that have been furnished to ours; the emigrations to Vermont and to the neighboring States, less harassed by the war, and affording better encouragements to industry, both which have been considerable.
Besides these circumstances, many of the fugitive families are a burthen for their substance upon the State. The fact is, labor is much dearer than before the war.
This State has certainly made, in the course of the war, great exertions, and, upon many occasions, of the most exhausting kind. This has sometimes happened from want of judgment; at others, from necessity. When the army, as has too often been the case, has been threatened with some fatal calamity—for want of provisions, forage, the means of transportation, etc.,—in consequence of pressing applications from the Commander-in-Chief, the Legislature have been obliged to have recourse to extraordinary expedients to answer the pressing emergency, which have both distressed and disgusted the people. There is no doubt that, with a prudent and systematic administration, the State might have rendered more benefit to the common cause, with less inconvenience to itself, than by all its forced efforts; but there, as everywhere else, we have wanted experience and knowledge. And, indeed, had this not been the case, every thing everywhere has been so radically wrong, that it was difficult, if not impossible, for any one State to be right.
The exposed situation of the frontier, and the frequent calls upon the inhabitants for personal service on each extremity, by interfering with industry, have contributed to impoverish the State and fatigue the people.
Deprived of foreign trade, our internal traffic is carried on upon the most disadvantageous terms. It divides itself into three branches: with the city of New York, with Jersey and Pennsylvania, and with New England.
That with New York consists chiefly of luxuries on one part and returns of specie on the other. I imagine we have taken goods from that place to the amount of near £30,000. The Legislature passed a severe law to prevent this intercourse, but what will laws avail against the ingenuity and intrepidity of avarice?
From Jersey and Pennsylvania we take about £30,000 more, and we pay almost entirely in cash.
From Massachusetts and other parts of New England we purchase to the amount of about £50,000, principally in tea and salt. (The articles of tea and salt alone cost this State the annual sum of £60,000.) We sell to these States to the value of about £30,000.
The immense land transportation, of which the chief part is carried on by the subjects of other States, is a vast incumbrance upon our trade.
The principal article we have to throw in the opposite scale is the expenditures of the army. Mr. Sands informs me that the contractors for the main army and West Point lay out in this State at the rate of about $60,000 a year; Mr. Duer, for these northern posts, about $30,000. If the Quartermaster-General expends as much more in his department, the whole will amount to about $180,000. I speak of what is paid for in specie, or such paper as answers the purpose of specie. These calculations cannot absolutely be relied on, because the data are necessarily uncertain, but they are the result of the best information I can obtain, and, if near the truth, prove that the general balance of trade is against us—a plain symptom of which is an extreme and universal scarcity of money.
The situation of the State with respect to its internal government is not more pleasing. Here we find the general disease which infects all our constitutions—an excess of popularity. There is no order that has a will of its own. The inquiry constantly is what will please, not what will benefit the people. In such a government there can be nothing but temporary expenditure, fickleness, and folly.
But the point of view in which this subject will be interesting to you is that which relates to our finances. I gave you, in a former letter, a sketch of our plan of taxation, but I will now be more particular.
The general principle of it is apparent, according to circumstances and abilities collectively considered. The ostensible reason for adopting this vague basis was a desire of equality. It was pretended that this could not be obtained so well by any fixed tariff of taxable property, as by leaving it to the discretion of persons chosen by the people themselves to deter mine the ability of each citizen. But perhaps the true reason was a desire to discriminate between the Whigs and Tories. This chimerical attempt at perfect equality has resulted in total inequality, or rather this narrow disposition to overburthen a particular class of citizens (living under the protection of the government) has been retorted upon the contrivers or their friends, wherever that class has been numerous enough to preponderate in the election of the officers who were to execute the law. The exterior figure a man makes, the decency and meanness of his manner of living, the personal friendships or dislikes of the assessors, have much more share in determining what individuals shall pay, than the proportion of property.
The Legislature first assesses or quotas the several counties. Here the evil begins—the members cabal and intrigue to throw the burthen off their respective constituents. Address and influence, more than considerations of real ability, prevail. A great deal of time is lost, and a great deal of expense incurred, before the juggle is ended and the necessary compromise made.
The supervisors, of whom there are upon an average sixteen in each county, meet at the notification of the county clerk, and assign their proportions to the subdivisions of the county, and, in the distribution, play over the same game which was played in the Legislature.
The assessors, assembled on a like notification, according to their fancies, determine the proportion of each individual; a list of which being made out and signed by the supervisors, is a warrant to the collectors. There are near an hundred upon an average in each country. The allowance to these officers has been various. It is now six shillings a day, besides expenses. In some cases they have been limited to a particular time for executing the business; but, in general, it is left to their discretion, and the greater part of them are not in a hurry to complete it, as they have a conpensation for their trouble and live better at the public charge than they are accustomed to do at their own. The consequence is not only delay but a heavy expense.
It now remains for the collectors to collect the tax, and it is the duty of the supervisors to see that they do it. Both these offices are elective as well as that of the assessor; and, of course, there is little disposition to risk the displeasure of those who elect. They have no motive of interest to stimulate them to their duty equivalent to the inconvenience of performing it. The collector is entitled to the trifling compensation of sometimes four, sometimes six pence, out of each pound he collects, and is liable to the trifling penalty of twenty or twenty-five pounds for neglect of duty. The supervisors have no interest at all in the collections, and it will not on this account appear extraordinary, that, with continual delinquencies in the collection, there has never been a single prosecution. As I observed on a former occasion, if the collector happens to be a zealous man and lives in a zealous neighborhood, the taxes are collected; if either of these requisites are wanting, the collection languishes or entirely fails.
When the taxes are collected they are paid to the county treasurer, an officer chosen by the supervisors. The collectors are responsible to him also; but as he is allowed only one fourth or one half per cent., he has no sufficient inducement to incur the odium of compelling them to do their duty.
The county treasurer pays what he receives in to the State treasurer, who has an annual salary of £300, and has nothing to do but to receive and pay out according to the appropriation of the Legislature.
Notwithstanding the obvious defects of this system; notwithstanding experience has shown it to be iniquitous and inefficient, and that all attempts to amend it without totally changing it are fruitless; notwithstanding there is a pretty general discontent from the inequality of the taxes, still ancient habits, ignorance, the spirit of the times, the opportunity afforded to some popular characters of screening themselves by intriguing with the assessors, have hitherto proved an overmatch for common sense and common justice, as well as the manifest advantage of the State and of the United States.
The temper of the State, which I shall now describe, may be considered under two heads—that of the rulers and that of the people.
The rulers are generally zealous in the common cause, though their zeal is oftentimes misdirected. They are jealous of their own power; but yet, as this State is the immediate theatre of the war, these apprehensions of danger, and an opinion that they are obliged to do more than their neighbors, make them very willing to part with power in favor of the Federal Government. This last opinion and an idea added to it, that they have no credit for their past exertions, has put them out of humor and indisposed many of them for future exertions. I have heard several assert that in the present situation of this State, nothing more ought to be expected than that it maintain its own government and keep up its quota of troops.
This sentiment, however, is as yet confined to few, but it is too palpable not to make proselytes.
The rulers of this State are attached to the alliance, as are Whigs generally. They have also great confidence in you personally, but pretty general exception has been taken to a certain letter of yours written, I believe, in the winter or spring. The idea imbibed is that it contains a reflection upon them for their past exertions. I have on every account combated this impression, which could not fail to have an ill effect, and I mention it to you with freedom, because it is essential you should know the temper of the States respecting yourself.
As to the people, in the early periods of the war, near one half of them were avowedly more attached to Great Britain than to their liberty, but the energy of the government has subdued all opposition. The State by different means has been purged of a large part of its malcontents; but there still remains, I dare say, a third, whose secret wishes are on the side of the enemy; the remainder sigh for peace, murmur at taxes, clamor at their rulers, change one incapable man for another more incapable, and, I fear, if left to themselves, would, too many of them, be willing to purchase peace at any price—not from inclination to Great Britain or disaffection to independence, but from mere supineness and avarice.
° The speculation of evils from the claims of Great Britain gives way to the pressure of inconveniences actually felt, and we required the event which has lately happened—the recognition of our independence by the Dutch—to give a new spring to the public hopes and the public passions. This has had a good effect, and if the Legislature can be brought to adopt a wise plan for its finances, we may put the people in better humor, and give a more regular and durable movement to the machine. The people of this State, as far as my observation goes, have as much firmness in their make and as much submission to government as those of any part of the Union. It remains for me to give you an explicit opinion of what is practicable for this State to do.
Even with a judicious plan of taxation I do not think the State can afford, or the people will bear, to pay more than £70,000 or £80,000 a year. In its entire and flourishing state, according to my mode of calculation it could not have exceeded £230,000 or £240,000; and reduced as it is, with the wheels of circulation so exceedingly clogged for want of commerce and a sufficient medium, more than I have said cannot be expected. Past experience will not authorize a more flattering conclusion. Out of this is to be deducted the expense of the interior administration and the money necessaries for the levies of men. The first amounts to about £15,000, as you will perceive by the inclosed slate; but I suppose the Legislature would choose to retain £20,000. The money hitherto yearly expended in recruits has amounted to between £20,000 and £30,000; but on a proper plan £10,000 might suffice. There would then remain £40,000 for your department.
But this is on a supposition of a change of system; for with the present I doubt there being paid into the Continental treasury one third of that sum. I am endeavoring to collect materials for greater certainty upon this subject. But the business of supplies has been so diversified, lodged in such a variety of independent hands, and so carelessly transacted, that it is hardly possible to get any tolerable idea of the gross and net product.
With the help of these materials I shall strive to convince the committee, when they meet, that a change of measures is essential; if they enter cordially into right views, we may succeed; but I confess I fear more than I hope.
I have taken every step in my power to procure the information you have desired in your letter of July 18th. The most material part of it, an account of the supplies furnished since March, ’80, has been committed to Col. Hay. I have written to him in pressing terms to accelerate the preparation.
You will perceive, sir, I have neither flattered the State nor encouraged high expectations. I thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be. I shall be sorry to give you an ill opinion of the State for want of equal candor in the representations of others; for, however disagreeable the reflection, I have too much reason to believe that the true picture of other States would be, in proportion to their circumstances, equally unpromising. All my inquiries and all that appears induce this opinion. I intend this letter in confidence to yourself, and therefore I endorse it private.
Before I conclude I will say a word on a point that possibly you could wish to be informed about. The contract up this way is executed generally to the satisfaction of the officers and soldiers, which is more meritorious in the contractor, as in all probability it will be to him a losing undertaking.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to john laurens2
August 15, 1782.
I received with great pleasure, my dear Laurens, the letter which you wrote me in ——— last. Your wishes in one respect are gratified. This State has pretty unanimously elected me to Congress. My time of service commences in November. It is not probable it will result in what you mention. I hope it is too late. We have great reason to flatter our selves. Peace on our own terms is upon the carpet. The making it is in good hands. It is said your father is exchanged for Cornwallis, and gone to Paris to meet the other commissioners, and that Granville, on the part of England, has made a second trip there; in the last instance, vested with plenipotentiary powers.
I fear there may be obstacles, but I hope they may be surmounted.
Peace made, my dear friend, a new scene opens. The object then will be to make our independence a blessing. To do this we must secure our Union on solid foundations—a herculean task,—and to effect which, mountains of prejudice must be levelled! It requires all the virtue and all the abilities of the country. Quit your sword, my friend; put on the toga. Come to Congress. We know each other’s sentiments; our views are the same. We have fought side by side to make America free; let us hand in hand struggle to make her happy. Remember me to General Greene with all the warmth of sincere attachment. Yours forever.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to governor clinton
August 25, 1782.
By advices from Philadelphia, I find that the present is a period rather critical on the subject of money, and concentres a variety of demands which it is not easy to satisfy.
It becomes, therefore, of importance to the Financier to avail himself of every immediate resource.
This induces me to request you will be so good as to inform me whether there is any near prospect of obtaining the loan directed to be applied to Continental use; also, whether any measures can be taken to accelerate the collection of the late tax imposed for the same use.
I would willingly write to the county treasurers myself, but, unauthorized as I am, I could expect no good effect from it.2[Back to Table of Contents]
to robert morris
August 25, 1782.
This letter serves only to transmit the two last papers. I wish the measures I have taken to satisfy you on the points you desire to be informed of had been attended to with so much success as to enable me now to transmit the result. But I find a singular confusion in the accounts kept by the public officers from whom I must necessarily derive my information, and a singular dilatoriness in complying with my application, partly from indolence and partly from jealousy of the office. I hope, by the next post, to transmit you information on some particulars.[Back to Table of Contents]
to colonel richard k. meade
August 27, 1782.
I thank you, my dear Meade, for your letter of the first of this month, which you will perceive has travelled much faster than has been usual with our letters. Our correspondence hitherto has been unfortunate; nor, in fact, can either of us compliment himself on his punctuality, but you were right in concluding that, however indolence or accident may interrupt our intercourse, nothing will interrupt our friendship. Mine for you is built on a solid basis of a full conviction that you deserve it, and that it is reciprocal; and it is the more firmly fixed because you have few competitors. Experience is a continual comment on the worthlessness of the human race; and the few exceptions we find have the greater right to be valued in proportion as they are rare. I know few men estimable, fewer amiable; and when I meet with one of the last description, it is not in my power to withhold my affection.
[You reproach me with not having said enough about our little stranger. When I wrote last I was not sufficiently acquainted with him to give you his character. I may now assure you that your daughter, when she sees him, will not consult you about the choice, or will only do it in respect to the rules of decorum. He is truly a very fine young gentleman, the most agreeable in his conversation and manners of any I ever knew, nor less remarkable for his intelligence and sweetness of temper. You are not to imagine, by my beginning with his mental qualifications, that he is defective in personal. It is agreed on all hands that he is handsome; his features are good, his eye is not only sprightly and expressive, but full of benignity. His attitude in sitting, is, by connoisseurs, esteemed graceful, and he has a method of waving his hand that announces the future orator. He stands, however, rather awkwardly, and as his legs have not all the delicate slimness of his father’s, it is feared he may never excel as much in dancing, which is probably the only accomplishment in which he will not be a model. If he has any fault in manners, he laughs too much. He has now passed his seventh month. I am glad to find your prospect of being settled approaches. I am sure you will realize all the happiness you promise yourself with your amiable partner. I wish fortune had not cast our lots at such a distance. Mrs. Meade, you, Betsey, and myself would make a most affectionate and most happy partie quarré.]
As to myself, I shall sit down in New York when it opens; and this period, we are told, approaches. No man looks forward to a peace with more pleasure than I do; though no man would sacrifice less to it than myself if I were not convinced that the people sigh for peace.
I have been studying the law for some months, and have lately been licensed as an attorney. I wish to prepare myself by October for examination as a counsellor; but some public avocation may possibly prevent me.
I had almost forgotten to tell you that I have been pretty unanimously elected, by the Legislature of this State, a member of Congress, to begin to serve in November. I do not hope to reform the State, although I shall endeavor to do all the good I can.
[Suffer Betsey and me to present our love to Mrs. Meade. She has a sisterly affection for you. My respects, if you please, to Mr. and Mrs. Fitzhugh. God bless you.]1[Back to Table of Contents]
to robert morris
August 31, 1782.
I send you herewith all the acts of the Legislature of this State since the government has been organized; on the margin of which I have numbered all the acts relative to the matters you mention in your letter of July, ’81, to the States agreeable to the within list. I inclose you the papers of the last week.
The indolence of some and the repugnancy of others make every trifle lag so much in the execution, that I am not able at this time to give you any further information. I wish to hear from you on the subject of my former letters previous to the meeting of the committee—the 15th of the ensuing month.[Back to Table of Contents]
to the county treasurers
Sept. 7, 1782.
The fifteenth of this month is the period fixed for the payment of the tax imposed at the last meeting of the Legislature for the use of the United States. The public exigencies and the reputation of the State require that every exertion should be made to collect this tax with punctuality and dispatch; and it is therefore my duty to urge you that you employ the powers vested in you, and all your personal influence, to induce the collectors to expedite the collection with all the zeal and vigor in their power. While the other States are all doing something, as a citizen of this, I shall feel a sensible mortification in being obliged to continue publishing to the others, that this State pays nothing in support of the war, as I have been under the necessity of doing the last two months. Besides this, and other still more weighty considerations, a regard to the subjects of the State itself demands every exertion in our power. They have parted with their property on the public faith, and it is impossible for the public to fulfil its engagements to individuals, unless it is enabled to do it by the equal and just contributions of the community at large.[Back to Table of Contents]
to robert morris
Sept. 7, 1782.
I have had the inclosed ready for some time; but in hopes of receiving the returns of the certificates mentioned in memorandum B, I delayed sending the present sketch. Having even received no answers from some of the parties who live at a distance from me, I suspect they have done their business in so disorderly a manner (to say nothing worse of it) that they are at a loss how to render the accounts; and I have therefore concluded not to detain any longer what I have procured.
I do not take the step mentioned in memorandum A, because I doubted its propriety. It might raise expectations about the old money, which, possibly, it may not enter into your plans to raise; and, besides this, by knowing what has been called in, in each State (which, from the sketch I send you, will appear as to this), you can determine the balance of omissions remaining out, except what may have worn out and been accidentally destroyed. If you desire this step to be taken, I will obey your commands.
I have said nothing of the rates of depreciation, because I imagine your letter, written in July, ’81, had reference to the rates at which the money was then actually circulating, and the circulation has now totally ceased. The laws I sent you by the last post will inform you of the rates fixed at different periods by the Legislature: forty, seventy-five, and, lastly, one hundred and twenty-eight. I am obliged to infer there is a studied backwardness in the officers of the State, who ought to give me the information you require respecting the supplies of different kinds which have been furnished to the use of the United States. Indeed, I find on inquiry, that their joint information will not be so full as to satisfy your intentions; and that this cannot be done till you have appointed a commissioner of accounts, authorized to enter into all the details, aided by some legislative arrangement which may be obtained the next session.[Back to Table of Contents]
to timothy pickering1
Sept. 7, 1782.
I this day received your letter of the 20th August. Mr. Morris has advised me of the bills you describe, and directed my purchasing them, together with his notes, and the bank notes, with what money shall come into my hands on public account. They are now beginning to collect the tax imposed for the use of the United States, though I can as yet form no judgment with what success or expedition. I shall with pleasure give you the information you ask, but I would rather wish to be excused from anticipation by previous deposits in my hands, as that will, in some measure, pledge me to give a preference to the bills deposited, and may hereafter expose me to a charge of partiality. There have been several applications to me for a similar anticipation, which I have avoided, reserving to myself the power of paying the bills as they shall be presented, and in proportion to the nearness or remoteness of the periods of payments.
You may, however, depend that I shall be happy to assist your department, and will keep in view your present request. I hope towards the latter end of the month I shall receive something considerable on the late tax.[Back to Table of Contents]
to robert morris
Sept. 14, 1782.
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 29th of August, the contents of which shall be executed.
I have just received by the post accounts of the specific supplies furnished by the State, copies of which I shall prepare to be transmitted to you by the next post, as I am to return the originals, which are for the inspection of the Legislature. I hope to add to these accounts of the moneys supplied.
I have written to you a number of letters since my journey to Poughkeepsie, of which, as they contain some things of a confidential nature, I am not without anxiety to learn the safe arrival.
I should also have been happy to have received your instructions against the meeting of the committee, which is to take place to-morrow. As they will have other business, if I hear from you by the next post, I shall not be too late. I am at a loss to know whether I ought to press the establishment of permanent funds or not; though, unless I receive your instructions, following my own apprehensions of what are probably your views, I shall dwell on this article.
I inclose you a copy of the letter of the Governor, of the 2d inst., from which you will see his hopes. Mine are not so good. In this vicinity, always delinquent, little is doing.[Back to Table of Contents]
to robert morris
Sept. 21, 1782.
The hurry in which I wrote to you by the last post prevented my examining particularly the papers which I informed you I had received. On a more careful inspection of them I found them not so complete as I had hoped. There is a general statement of specific supplies; but the returns referred to in that for the particulars were by some mistake omitted. I have written for them, but they have not yet arrived; when they do I shall lose no time in forwarding them.
I observe there is nothing respecting transportation, and there is a part of the supplies for the period before Colonel Hay came into office which is estimated on a scale of proportion—too vague a method to be satisfactory. I have urged him to send me an account of the transportation, and to collect, as speedily as possible, official returns of the supplies above mentioned.
There is a practice obtaining, which appears to me to contravene your views. The contractors, I am informed, have gotten into a method of carrying your bills immediately to the collectors and drawing the specie out of their hands, by which means the paper never goes into circulation at all, but passes, so to speak, immediately out of one hand of the public into the other. The people, therefore, can never be familiarized to the paper, nor can it ever obtain a general currency.
If the specie were to come in to the receivers, and the contractors were left under a necessity of exerting their influence to induce the inhabitants to take your notes, to be afterwards redeemed by the receivers agreeably to your plan, this would gradually accustom the people to place confidence in the notes, and though the circulation at first should be momentary, it might come to be more permanent.
I am in doubt whether, on the mere speculation of an evil, without your instructions, I ought to take any step to prevent this practice. For, should I forbid the exchange, it might possibly cause a suspicion that there was a preference of the paper to the specie, which might injure its credit.
I have thought of a method to prevent, without forbidding it in direct terms. This was to require each collector to return the names of the persons from whom he received taxes, and in different columns specify the kind of money, whether specie, your notes, or bank notes, in which the tax was paid, giving the inhabitants receipts accordingly, and paying in the money in the same species in which it was received. This would cover the object.
I have tried to prevail upon the county treasurer of this place to instruct the collectors accordingly; but the great aim of all these people is to avoid trouble, and he affected to consider the matter as a Herculean labor. Nor will it be done without a legislative injunction.
A method of this kind would tend much to check fraud in the collectors, and would have many good consequences.
I thought it my duty, at any rate, to apprise you of the practice, that, if my apprehensions are right, it may not be continued without control. I have reason to believe it is very extensive—by no means confined to this State.
Permit me to make one more observation. Your notes, though in credit with the merchants by way of remittance, do not enter far into ordinary circulation, and this principally on account of their size; which even makes them inconvenient for paying taxes. The taxes of very few amount to twenty dollars a single tax; and though the farmers might combine to sell their produce for the notes, to pay the taxes jointly; yet this is not always convenient, and will seldom be practised. If the notes were, in considerable part, of five eight, or ten dollars, their circulation would be far more general; the merchants would, even in their retail operations, give specie in exchange for balances, which few of them care to do, or can do, with the larger notes; though they are willing to take them for their goods.[Back to Table of Contents]
to robert morris
September 28, 1782.
I have been honored this week with your letters of the 28th August, 6th, 12th, and 17th instant, with their inclosures.
It gives me the most real pleasure to find that my past communications have met with your approbation; and I feel a particular satisfaction in the friendly confidence which your letters manifest.
I am persuaded that substantial reasons have determined your choice in a particular instance to Doctor Tillotson; and I am flattered by the attention you have obligingly paid to my recommendations of Col. Malcolm and Mr. Lawrence. Those gentlemen are now here. They make you the warmest acknowledgments for your offer, but decline leaving the State; which, indeed, is not compatible with the present prospects of either of them.
I am glad to have had an opportunity of perusing your letter to this State, at which so much exception has been taken; because it has confirmed me in what I presumed, that there has been much unjustifiable ill-humor upon the occasion. I will make use of the knowledge I have to combat misrepresentation.
Yours of the 29th of July, to Congress, is full of principles and arguments as luminous as they are conclusive. ’t is to be lamented that they have not had more weight than we are to infer from the momentary expedient adopted by the resolutions of the 4th and 10th; which will, alone, not be satisfactory to the public creditors; and I fear will only tend to embarrass your present operations, without answering the end in view. The more I see, the more I find reason for those who love this country to weep over its blindness.
The committee on the subject of taxation are met. Some have their plans, and they must protect their own children, however misshapen; others have none, but are determined to find fault with all. I expect little, but I shall promote any thing, though imperfect, that will mend our situation.
The public creditors in this quarter have had a meeting, and appointed a committee to devise measures. The committee will report petitions to Congress, the Legislature, and an address to the public creditors in other parts of the State to appoint persons to meet in convention, to unite in some common measure. I believe they will also propose a general convention of all the creditors in the different States.[Back to Table of Contents]
to robert morris
October 5, 1782.
In my last I informed you that the committee appointed by the Legislature on the subject of taxation were together. In spite of my efforts, they have parted without doing any thing decisive. They have, indeed, agreed upon several matters, and those of importance, but they have not reduced them to the form of a report, which, in fact, leaves every thing afloat, to be governed by the impressions of the moment when the Legislature meets.
The points agreed upon are these: That there shall be an actual valuation of land, and a tax of so much in the pound,—the great diversity in the qualities of land would not suffer them to listen to an estimated valuation, or to a tax by the quantity, agreeably to the idea in your late report to Congress: that there shall be also a tariff of all personal property, to be also taxed at so much in the pound; that there shall be a specific tax on carriages, clocks, watches, and other similar articles of luxury; that money at usury shall be taxed at a fixed rate in the pound, excluding that which is loaned to the public; that houses in all towns shall be taxed at a certain proportion of the annual rent; that there shall be a poll-tax on all single men from fifteen upwards; and that the collection of the taxes should be advertised to the lowest bidder, at a fixed rate per cent., bearing all subordinate expenses.
Among other things which were rejected, I pressed hard for an excise on distilled liquors, but all that could be carried on this article was a license on taverns.
The committee were pretty generally of opinion that the system of funding for payment of old debts and for procuring further credit, was wise and indispensable, but a majority thought it would be unwise in one State to contribute in this way alone.
Nothing was decided on the quantum of taxes which the State was able to pay; those who went furthest did not exceed seventy thousand pounds, of which fifty for the use of the United States.
I send you my cash account, which is for what has been received in this county. We have not heard from the others.[Back to Table of Contents]
to robert morris
October 9, 1782.
I wrote you a hasty letter by the last post, which arrived late, and set out very soon after its arrival.
Since that I have received two thousand dollars, all in your bills on Mr. Swanwick, in favor of Messrs. Sands & Co. One half the sum is in bills payable in February next, exchanged by them for specie with one of the county treasurers. I am sensible there is an inconvenience in this in different ways, but it appears by your letter of the 19th of July that you mean to have those bills received upon the same footing with your and the bank notes, without regard to the time they have to run. I have, however, induced the treasurer to write in a manner that I hope will discourage like exchanges in future without giving any unfavorable impression. Besides the inconvenience from this practice, which I mentioned in a former letter, there is another which I am persuaded will result.
People will get into a way of discounting your bills and notes with the treasurers and collectors, to the injury of their credit.
Probably you are apprised of a fact which, however, I think it my duty to mention: It is that the bank notes pass pretty currently as cash, with a manifest preference to your notes.
I have not yet received the other papers relative to the account of supplies I have sent you.
I hope to be able to inclose you a copy of the address of the public creditors in this town to the rest of that denomination in this State. It inculcates the ideas which ought to prevail.
I have not yet heard of your messenger, Mr. Brown. I presume his circuit is regulated by your occasional direction.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to de noailles2
Esteem for your talents and acquirements is a sentiment which, from my earliest acquaintance with you, my dear Viscount, I have shared in common with all those who have the happiness of knowing you; but a better knowledge of your character has given it, in my eyes, a more intrinsic merit, and has attached me to you by a friendship founded upon qualities as rare as they are estimable. Averse as I am to professions, I cannot forbear indulging this declaration, to express to you the pleasure I felt at receiving (after an inexplicable delay) the letter you were so obliging as to write me before your departure from Boston. It was of that kind which is always produced by those attentions of friends we value: which, not being invited by circumstances, nor necessitated by the forms of society, bespeak the warmth of the heart. At least my partiality for you makes me fond of viewing it in this light, and I cherish the opinion.
I was chagrined to find that you left us with an intention not to return. Though I should be happy if, by a removal of the war, this country should cease to be a proper theatre for your exertions, yet, if it continues to be so, I hope you will find sufficient motives to engage you to change your resolution. Wherever you are you will be useful and distinguished; but the ardent desire I have of meeting you again makes me wish America may be your destination. I would willingly do it in France, as you invite me to do, but the prospect of this is remote. I must make a more solid establishment here before I can conveniently go abroad. There is no country I have a greater curiosity to see, or which I am persuaded would be so interesting to me as yours. I should be happy to renew and improve the valuable acquaintances from thence, which this war has given me an opportunity of making; and, though I could not flatter myself with deriving any advantage from it, I am persuaded it is there I should meet with the greatest number of those you describe, who, etc.,—but considerations of primary importance will oblige me to submit to the mortification of deferring my visit.
In the meantime I should be too much the gainer by communication with you, not gladly to embrace the offer you so politely make for writing to each other.
The period, since you left us, has been too barren of events to enable me to impart any thing worth attention. The enemy continue in possession of Charleston and Savannah, and leave us masters of the rest of the country. General Greene has detached Wayne to Georgia; but I believe his views do not extend beyond the mere possession of the country. It is said the Assemblies of the two invaded States are about meeting, to restore the administration of government. This will be a step to strengthening the hands of General Greene, and counteracting the future intrigues of the enemy. Many are sanguine in believing that all the southern posts will be evacuated, and that a fleet of transports is actually gone to bring the garrisons away. For my part, I have doubts upon the subject. My politics are, that while the present ministry can maintain their seats and procure supplies, they will prosecute the war on the mere chance of events; and that while this is the plan, they will not evacuate posts so essential as points of departure; from whence, on any favorable turn of affairs, to renew their attack on our most vulnerable side. Nor will they relinquish objects that would be so useful to them, should the worst happen in a final negotiation. Clinton, it is said, is cutting a canal across New York Island, through the low grounds, about a mile and a half from the city. This will be an additional obstacle; but if we have, otherwise, the necessary means to operate, it will not be an insurmountable one. I do not hear that he is constructing any other new works of consequence. To you, who are so thoroughly acquainted with the military posture of things in this country, I need not say that the activity of the next campaign must absolutely depend on effectual succors from France. I am convinced we shall have a powerful advocate in you. La Fayette, we know, will bring “the whole house” with him if he can.
There has been no material change in our internal situation since you left us. The capital successes we have had have served rather to increase the hopes than the exertions of the particular States. But in one respect we are in a mending way. Our financier has hitherto conducted himself with great ability, has acquired an entire personal confidence, revived in some measure the public credit, and is conciliating fast the support of the moneyed men. His operations have hitherto hinged chiefly on the seasonable aids from your country; but he is urging the establishment of permanent funds among ourselves; and though, from the nature and temper of our governments, his applications will meet with a dilatory compliance, it is to be hoped they will by degrees succeed.
The institution of a bank has been very serviceable to him; the commercial interest, finding great advantages in it, and anticipating much greater, is disposed to promote the plan; and nothing but moderate funds, permanently pledged for the security of lenders, is wanting to make it an engine of the most extensive and solid utility. By the last advices there is reason to believe the delinquent States will shortly comply with the requisition of Congress for a duty on our imports. This will be a great resource to Mr. Morris; but it will not alone be sufficient.
Upon the whole, however, if the war continues another year, it will be necessary that Congress should again recur to the generosity of France for pecuniary assistance. The plans of the financier cannot be so matured as to enable us by any possibility to dispense with this; and if he should fail for want of support, we must replunge into that confusion and distress which had liked to have proved fatal to us, and out of which we are slowly emerging. The cure, on a relapse, would be infinitely more difficult than ever.
I have given you an uninteresting but a faithful sketch of our situation. You may expect, from time to time, to receive from me the progress of our affairs; and I know you will overpay me.[Back to Table of Contents]
to general greene
October 12, 1782.
It is an age since I have either written to you or received a line from you; yet I persuade myself you have not been the less convinced of my affectionate attachment and warm participation in all those events which have given you that place in your country’s esteem and approbation which I have known you to deserve, while your enemies and rivals were most active in sullying your reputation.
You will perhaps learn before this reaches you that I have been appointed a member of Congress. I expect to go to Philadelphia in the ensuing month, where I shall be happy to correspond with you with our ancient confidence; and I shall entreat you not to confine your observations to military subjects, but to take in the whole scope of national concerns. I am sure your ideas will be useful to me and to the public.
I feel the deepest affliction at the news we have just received of the loss of our dear and estimable friend Laurens. His career of virtue is at an end. How strangely are human affairs conducted, that so many excellent qualities could not insure a more happy fate! The world will feel the loss of a man who has left few like him behind, and America, of a citizen whose heart realized that patriotism of which others only talk. I shall feel the loss of a friend I truly and most tenderly loved, and one of a very small number.
* * * * * *[Back to Table of Contents]
to robert morris
October 26, 1782.
I am honored with your letters of the 5th, 15th, and 16th instant.
The detail you have been pleased to enter into in that of the 5th exhibits very cogent reasons for confining yourself to pretty large denominations of notes. Somt- of them had occurred to me, others had not; but I thought it my duty to state to you the operation which that circumstance had, as in the midst of the variety and extent of the objects which occupy your attention, you may not have so good opportunities of seeing the effect of your plans in detail. While I acknowledge that your observations have corrected my ideas upon the subject, and shown me that there would be danger in generally lessening the denominations of the paper issued, I should be uncandid not to add that it still appears to me there would be a preponderance of advantages in having a part of a smaller amount. I shall not trouble you at present with any further reasons for this opinion.
I have immediately on receipt of your letter taken measures for the publication of your advertisement in the newspapers of this State.
You will perceive by the enclosed cash account that, since my last, I have received five and twenty hundred dollars. This was procured in part of the loan I mentioned to you. It was chiefly paid to me in specie, and I have exchanged it with Col. Dickering and Mr. Duer for the notes; the latter had twelve hundred dollars. Taxes collect slowly, but I must shortly receive two or three hundred pounds more, of which Mr. Duer will have the principal benefit, as it appears by your letter to him, that you hoped he might receive three thousand dollars from me.
As I may shortly set out for Philadelphia, I wish to surrender to Mr. Tillotson, as soon as you think proper, the office in which he is to succeed.[Back to Table of Contents]
Nov. 3, 1782.
Since we parted, my dear Marquis, at Yorktown, I have received three letters from you; one written on your way to Boston, two from France. I acknowledge that I have written to you only once, but the reason has been that I have been taught daily to expect your return. This I should not have done from my own calculations, for I saw no prospect but of an inactive campaign; and you had much better be intriguing for your hobby-horse at Paris than loitering away your time here. Yet they seem to be convinced at headquarters that you were certainly coming out; and by your letter it appears to have been your own expectation. I imagine you have relinquished it by this time.
I have been employed for the last ten months in rocking the cradle and studying the art of fleecing my neighbors. I am now a grave counsellor-at-law, and shall soon be a grave member of Congress. The Legislature, at their last session, took it into their heads to name me, pretty unanimously, one of their delegates.
I am going to throw away a few months more in public life, and then retire a simple citizen and good pater familias. I set out for Philadelphia in a few days. You see the disposition I am in. You are condemned to run the race of ambition all your life. I am already tired of the career, and dare to leave it.
But you would not give a pin for my letter unless politics or war made a part of it. You tell me they are employed in building a peace, and other accounts say it is nearly finished. I hope the work may meet with no interruptions. It is necessary for America, especially if your army is taken from us, as we are told will soon be the case. That was an essential point d‘appui, though money was the primum mobile of our finances, which must now lose the little activity lately given them. Our trade is prodigiously cramped. These States are in no humor for continuing exertions; if the war lasts it must be carried on by external succors. I make no apology for the inertness of this country. I detest it, but since it exists I am sorry to see other resources diminish. Your ministers ought to know best what they are doing, but if the war goes on and the removal of the army does not prove an unwise measure, I renounce all future pretensions to judgment. I think, however, the circumstances of the enemy oblige them to peace.
We have been hoping that they would abandon their posts in these States. It no doubt was once in contemplation, but later appearances are rather ambiguous. I begin to suspect that if peace is not made, New York and Charleston—the former at least—will still be held.
There is no probability that I shall be one of the Commissioners of Peace. It is a thing I do not desire myself, and which I imagine other people will not desire.
Our army is now in excellent order, but small.
The temper we are in respecting the alliance, you will see from public acts. There never was a time of greater unanimity on that point.
I wish I durst enter into a greater detail with you, but our cipher is not fit for it, and I fear to trust it in another shape.
Is there any thing you wish on this side the water? You know the warmth and sincerity of my attachment. Command me.
I have not been so happy as to see Mr. De Segur. The title of your friend would have been a title to every thing in my power to manifest. Adieu.
General and Mrs. Schuyler and Mrs. Hamilton all join warmly in the most affectionate remembrances to you.
As to myself, I am in truth,
Yours pour la vie.
I wrote a long letter to the Viscount De Noailles, whom I also love. Has he received it? Is the worthy Gouvion well? Has he succeeded? How is it with our friend Gimat? How is it with General Du Portail? All those men are men of merit, and interest my best wishes.
Poor Laurens! He has fallen a sacrifice to his ardor in a trifling skirmish in South Carolina. You know how truly I loved him, and will judge how much I regret him.
I will write you again soon after my arrival at Philadelphia.[Back to Table of Contents]
to the governor of rhode island1
Dec. 11, 1782.
Congress are equally affected and alarmed by the information they have received that the Legislature of your State, at their last meeting, have refused their concurrence in establishing a duty on imports. They consider this measure as so indispensable to the prosecution of the war, that a sense of duty and regard to the common safety compel them to renew their efforts to engage a compliance with it. And in this view they have determined to send a deputation of three members to your State, as expressed in the inclosed resolution. The gentleman they have appointed will be able to lay before you a full and just representation of public affairs, from which, they flatter themselves, will result a conviction of the propriety of their solicitude upon the present occasion. Convinced by past experience of the zeal and patriotism of the State of Rhode Island, they cannot doubt that it will yield to those urgent considerations which flow from a knowledge of our true situation.
They will only briefly observe that the increasing discontents of the army, the loud clamors of the public creditors, and the extreme disproportion between the public supplies and the demands of the public service, are so many invincible arguments for the fund recommended by Congress. They feel themselves unable to devise any other that will be more efficacious, less exceptionable, or more generally agreeable; and if this is refused, they anticipate calamities of the most menacing nature—with this consolation, however, that they have faithfully discharged their trust, and that the mischiefs which follow cannot be attributed to them.
A principal object of the proposed fund is to procure loans abroad. If no security can be held out to lenders, the success of these must necessarily be very limited. The last accounts on the subject were not flattering; and when intelligence shall arrive in Europe that the State of Rhode Island has disagreed to the only fund which has yet been devised, there is every reason to apprehend it will have a fatal influence upon their future progress.
Deprived of this resource, our affairs must in all probability hasten to a dangerous crisis, and these States be involved in greater embarrassments than they have yet experienced, and from which it may be much more difficult to emerge. Congress will only add a request to your Excellency, that if the Legislature should not be sitting, it may be called together as speedily as possible, to enable the gentlemen whom they have deputed to perform the purpose of their mission.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to governor clinton
Dec. 18, 1782.
I shall very shortly be out of cash, and shall be much obliged to you to forward me the State allowance. It will answer as well in Mr. Morris’ notes as specie, provided the notes have not more than a fortnight or so to run. It will be better if they are due. A disappointment in this will greatly embarrass me, and from what your Excellency said, I take it for granted it cannot happen. Nothing new except a probable account of the evacuation of Charleston.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to governor clinton
Jan. 12, 1783.
I am honored with your Excellency’s letter of the 29th of December. I have received an order from Colonel Hay on Mr. Sands, which I have no doubt will shortly be paid. I have felt no inconvenience from not having the money sooner.
Since my last to you we have received no further accounts from Europe, so that we remain in the same uncertainty with respect to the negotiations for peace. Whether it will take place or not is a problem of difficult solution. The duplicity and unsteadiness for which Lord Shelburne is remarkable will not justify any confidence in his intentions; and the variety of interests to be conciliated in a treaty of peace, with the best dispositions on all sides, must render it a work of difficulty. I suspect too the Spaniards and the Dutch will have large demands.
We have now here a deputation from the army, and feel the mortification. of a total disability to comply with their just expectations. If, however, the matter is taken up in a proper manner, I think their application may be turned to a good account. Every day proves more and more the insufficiency of the Confederation. The proselytes to this opinion are increasing fast, and many of the most sensible men acknowledge the wisdom of the measure recommended by your Legislature at their last sitting. Various circumstances conspire at this time to incline to the adoption of it, and I am not without hope it may ere long take place. But I am far from being sanguine.
We are deliberating on some mode for carrying that article of the Confederation into execution, which respects the valuation of lands, to ascertain the quotas of the several States. None has yet been proposed that appears to me eligible. I confess I dislike the principle altogether; but we are tied down by the Confederation.
The affairs of the Grants have been no further touched since the resolutions transmitted to you. It is a business in which nobody cares to act with decision. As intimated before, I must doubt the perseverance of Congress, if military coercion should become necessary. I am clear the only chance the Legislature have for a recovery of any part of the revolted territory is by a compromise with New Hampshire, and this compromise must originate between the States themselves. I hope the Legislature will revise the late act for confirming the possessions of those who hold lands in that country. I am certain there are doubts upon the subject, and it were much to be wished such doubts did not exist. The present dissatisfaction of the army is much opposed to any experiment of force in a service where scruples of interest or prejudice may operate.1[Back to Table of Contents]
February 7, 1783.
Flattering myself that your knowledge of me will induce you to receive the observations I make, as dictated by a regard to the public good, I take the liberty to suggest to you my ideas on some matters of delicacy and importance. I view the present juncture as a very interesting one. I need not observe how far the temper and situation of the army make it so. The state of our finances was perhaps never more critical. I am under injunctions which will not permit me to disclose some facts that would at once demonstrate this position; but I think it probable you will be possessed of them through another channel. It is, however, certain that there has scarcely been a period of the Revolution which called more for wisdom and decision in Congress. Unfortunately for us, we are a body not governed by reason or foresight, but by circumstances. It is probable we shall not take the proper measures; and if we do not, a few months may open an embarrassing scene. This will be the case whether we have peace or a continuance of the war.
If the war continues, it would seem that the army must, in June, subsist itself, to defend the country. If peace should take place, it will subsist itself, to procure justice to itself. It appears to be a prevailing opinion in the army that the disposition to recompense their services will cease with the necessity for them, and that, if they once lay down their arms, they part with the means of obtaining justice. It is to be lamented that appearances afford too much ground for their distrust.
It becomes a serious inquiry: What is the true line of policy? The claims of the army, urged with moderation, but with firmness, may operate on those weak minds which are influenced by their apprehensions more than by their judgments, so as to produce a concurrence in the measures which the exigencies of affairs demand. They may add weight to the applications of Congress to the several States. So far a useful turn may be given to them. But the difficulty will be to keep a complaining and suffering army within the bounds of moderation.
This your Excellency’s influence must effect. In order to do it, it will be advisable not to discountenance their endeavors to procure redress, but rather, by the intervention of confidential and prudent persons, to take the direction of them. This, however, must not appear. It is of moment to the public tranquillity, that your Excellency should preserve the confidence of the army without losing that of the people. This will enable you, in case of extremity, to guide the current, and to bring order, perhaps even good, out of confusion. ’t is a part that requires address; but ’t is one which your own situation, as well as the welfare of the community, points out.
I will not conceal from your Excellency a truth which it is necessary you should know. An idea is propagated in the army that delicacy, carried to an extreme, prevents your espousing its interests with sufficient warmth. The falsehood of this opinion no one can be better acquainted with than myself, but it is not the less mischievous for being false. Its tendency is to impair that influence which you may exert with advantage, should any commotions unhappily ensue, to moderate the pretensions of the army, and make their conduct correspond with their duty.
The great desideratum at present is the establishment of general funds, which alone can do justice to the creditors of the United States (of whom the army forms the most meritorious class), restore public credit, and supply the future wants of government. This is the object of all men of sense. In this the influence of the army, properly directed, may co-operate.
The intimations I have thrown out will suffice to give your Excellency a proper conception of my sentiments. You will judge of their reasonableness or fallacy, but I persuade myself you will do justice to my motives. General Knox has the confidence of the army, and is a man of sense. I think he may be safely made use of. Situated as I am, your Excellency will feel the confidential nature of these observations.[Back to Table of Contents]
to governor clinton
February 24, 1783.
In my letter of the 14th I informed your Excellency that Congress were employed in devising a plan for carrying the eighth article of the Confederation into execution. This business is at length brought to a conclusion. I enclose, for the information of the Legislature, the proceedings upon it in different stages, by which they will see the part I have acted. But as I was ultimately left in a small minority, I think it my duty to explain the motives upon which my opposition to the general course of the House was founded.
I am of opinion that the article of the Confederation itself was ill-judged. In the first place I do not believe there is any general representative of the wealth of a nation, the criterion of its ability to pay taxes. There are only two that can be thought of—land and numbers.
The revenues of the United Provinces (general and particular) were computed, before the present war, to more than half as much as those of Great Britain. The extent of their territory is not one fourth part as great, their population less than a third. The comparison is still more striking between those provinces and the Swiss Cantons, in both of which extent of territory and population are nearly the same, and yet the revenues of the former are five times as large as those of the latter; nor could any efforts of taxation bring them to any thing like a level. In both cases the advantages for agriculture are superior in those countries which afford least revenue in proportion. I have selected these examples because they are most familiar, but whoever will extend the comparison between the different nations of the world will perceive that the position I have laid down is supported by universal experience.
The truth is, the ability of a country to pay taxes depends on infinite combinations of physical and moral causes which can never be accommodated to any general rule—climate, soil, productions, advantages for navigation, government, genius of the people, progress of arts and industry, and an endless variety of circumstances. The diversities are sufficiently great in these States to make an infinite difference in their relative wealth, the proportion of which can never be found by any common measure whatever.
The only possible way, then, of making them contribute to the general expense in an equal proportion to their means, is by general taxes imposed under Continental authority.
In this mode there would no doubt be inequalities, and, for a considerable time, material ones, but experience, and the constant operation of a general interest, which, by the very collision of particular interests, must, in the main, prevail in a Continental deliberative, would at length correct those inequalities, and balance one tax that should bear hard upon one State by another that should have proportional weight in others. This idea, however, was not, at the period of framing the Confederation, and is not yet, agreeable to the spirit of the time. To futurity we must leave the discovery how far this spirit is wise or foolish. One thing only is now certain: that Congress having the discretionary power of determining the quantum of money to be paid into the general treasury towards defraying the common expenses, have in effect the constitutional power of general taxation.
The restraints upon the exercise of this power amount to the perpetuating a rule for fixing the proportions, which must of necessity produce inequality, and by refusing the Federal Government a power of specific taxation and of collection, without substituting any other adequate means of coercion, do, in fact, leave the compliance with Constitutional requisitions to the good-will of the respective States. Inequality is inherent in the theory of the Confederation, and, in the practice, that inequality must increase in proportion to the honesty or dishonesty of the component parts. This vice will either, in its consequences, reform the Federal Constitution or dissolve it.
If a general standard must be fixed, numbers were preferable to land. Modes might be devised to ascertain the former with tolerable precision; but I am persuaded the experiment will prove that the value of all the land in each State cannot be ascertained with any thing like exactness. Both these measures have the common disadvantage of being no equal representative of the wealth of the people, but one is much more simple, definite, and certain than the other.
I have indulged myself in these remarks to show that I have little expectation of success from any mode of carrying the article in question into execution upon equitable principles. I owe it, however, to myself to declare that my opposition did not arise from this source. The Confederation has pointed out this mode, and, though I would heartily join in a representation of the difficulties (of which every man of sense must be sensible on examination) that occur in the execution of the plan to induce the States to consent to a change, yet, as this was not the disposition of a majority of Congress, I would have assented to any mode of attempting it, which was not either obviously mischievous or impracticable.
The first plan proposed, as your Excellency will see, was an actual valuation of each State by itself. This was evidently making the interested party judge in his own cause. Those who have seen the operation of this principle between the counties in the same State, and the districts in the same county, cannot doubt a moment that the valuations on this plan would have been altogether unequal and unjust. Without supposing more liberality in one State than in another, the degree of care, judgment, and method employed in the execution would alone make extreme differences in the results.
This mode has also the further inconvenience of awakening all the jealousies of the several States against each other. Each would suspect that its neighbor had favored itself, whether the partiality appeared or not. It would be impossible to silence these distrusts and to make the States sit down satisfied with the justice of each other. Every new requisition for money would be a new signal for discussion and clamor, and the seeds of disunion, already sown too thick, would be not a little multiplied.
To guard against these evils the plan proposes a revision by Congress; but it is easy to be seen that such a power could not be exercised. Should any States return defective valuations it would be difficult to find sufficient evidence to determine them such. To alter would not be admissible, for Congress could have no data which could be presumed equivalent to those which must have governed the judgment of commissioners under oath, or an actual view of the premises. To do either this or reject would be an impeachment of the honor of the States, which it is not probable there would be decision enough to hazard, and which, if done, could not fail to excite serious disgusts. There is a wide difference between a single State exercising such a power over its own counties and a confederate government exercising it over sovereign States which compose the Confederacy. It might also happen that too many States would be interested in the defective valuations to leave a sufficient number willing either to alter or to reject.
These considerations prevailed to prevent the plan being adopted by the majority.
The last plan may be less mischievous than the first, but it appears to me altogether ineffectual. The mere quantity of lands granted and surveyed, with the general species of buildings upon them, can certainly be no criteria to determine their value. The plan does not even distinguish the improved from the unimproved land, the qualities of soil or degrees of improvement; the qualities of the houses and other buildings are entirely omitted. These, it seems, are to be judged by the commissioners to be appointed by each State. But I am unable to conceive how any commissioner can form the least estimate of these circumstances with respect even to his own State, much less with respect to other States, which would be necessary to establish a just relative value. If even there was a distinction of improved from unimproved land, by supposing an intrinsic value in the land and adopting general rates, something nearer the truth might be attained; but it must now be all conjecture and uncertainty.
The numbers of inhabitants, distinguishing white from black, are called for. This is not only totally foreign to the Confederation, but can answer no reasonable purpose. It has been said that the proportion of numbers may guide and correct the estimates. An assertion, purely verbal, has no meaning. A judgment must first be formed of the value of the lands upon some principles. If this should be altered by the proportion of numbers, it is plain numbers would be substituted to land.
Another objection to this plan is that it lets in the particular interests of the States to operate in the returns of the quantities of land, number of buildings, and number of inhabitants. But the principle of this objection applies less forcibly here than against the former plan.
Whoever will consider the plain import of the eighth article of the Confederation must be convinced that it intended an actual and specific valuation of land, buildings, and improvements,—not a mere general estimate, according to the present plan. While we insist, therefore, upon adhering to the Confederation, we should do it in reality, not barely in appearance.
Many of those who voted for this scheme had as bad an opinion of it as myself, but they were induced to accede to it by a persuasion that some plan for the purpose was expected by the States, and that none better, in the present circumstances of the country, could be fallen upon.
A leading rule which I have laid down for the direction of my conduct is this, that, while I would have a just deference for the expectations of the States, I would never consent to amuse them by attempts which must either fail in the execution or be productive of evil. I would rather incur the negative inconveniences of delay than the positive mischiefs of injudicious expedients. A contrary conduct serves to destroy confidence in the government, the greatest misfortune that can befall a nation. There should, in my opinion, be a character of wisdom and efficiency in all the measures of the Federal Council, the opposite of a spirit of temporizing concession.
I would have sufficient reliance on the judgments of the several States to hope that good reasons for not attempting a thing would be more satisfactory to them than precipitate and fruitless attempts.
My idea is that, taking it for granted the States will expect an experiment on the principle of the Confederation, the best plan will be to make it by commissioners, appointed by Congress, and acting under their authority. Congress might, in the first instance, appoint three or more of the principal characters in each State for probity and abilities, with a power to nominate other commissioners under them in each subdivision of the State. General principles might be laid down for the regulation of their conduct, by which uniformity in the manner of conducting the business would obtain. Sanctions of such solemnity might be prescribed and such notoriety given to every part of the transaction, that the commissioners could neither be careless nor partial without a sacrifice of reputation.
To carry this plan, however, into effect, with sufficient care and accuracy, would be a work both of time and expense; and, unfortunately, we are so pressed to find money for calls of immediate necessity, that we could not at present undertake a measure which would require so large a sum.
To me it appears evident that every part of a business which is of so important and universal concern should be transacted on uniform principles and under the direction of that body which has a common interest.
In general, I regard the present moment, probably the dawn of peace, as peculiarly critical, and the measures which it shall produce as of great importance to the future welfare of these States. I am therefore scrupulously cautious of assenting to plans which appear to me founded on false principles.
Your Excellency will observe that the valuation of the lands is to be the standard for adjusting the accounts for past supplies between the United States and the particular States. This, if adhered to without allowance for the circumstances of those States which have been more immediately the theatre of the war, will charge our State for the past according to its future ability when in an entire condition, if the valuation should be made after we regain possession of the parts of the State now in the power of the enemy.
I have therefore introduced a motion for repeating the call, in a more earnest manner, upon the States to vest Congress with a power of making equitable abatements, agreeably to the spirit of the resolution of the 20th of February last, which few of the States have complied with. This motion has been committed. I know not what will be its fate.
Notwithstanding the opposition I have given, now the matter has been decided in Congress I hope the State will cheerfully comply with what is required. Unless each State is governed by this principle, there is an end to the Union. Every State will, no doubt, have a right in this case to accompany its compliance with such remarks as it may think proper. After the plan was agreed upon it was committed to be put into form, and when reported, instead of commissioners, an alteration was carried for making the estimate by a grand committee.
Mr. Morris has signified to Congress his resolution to resign by the 1st of June if adequate funds are not by that time provided. This will be a severe stroke to our affairs. No man fit for the office will be willing to supply his place, for the very reason he resigns.
‘T is happy for us we have reasons to expect a peace. I am sorry that, by different accounts, it appears not to have been concluded late in December.[Back to Table of Contents]
March 25, 1783.
I had the honor of writing your Excellency lately on a very confidential subject, and shall be anxious to know, as soon as convenient, whether the letter got safe to hand.
The bearer, Shattuck, thinks he can point out means of apprehending Wells and Knowlton,1 the two persons whom your Excellency was authorized to have taken into custody. I have desired him to call upon you to disclose the plan. I will not trouble your Excellency with any observation on the importance of getting hold of those persons.
The surmise that Mr. Arnold,1 a member of Congress, gave intelligence to them of the design to take them, makes it peculiarly important.[Back to Table of Contents]
March 17, 1783.
I am duly honored with your Excellency's letters of the 4th and 12th instant. It is much to be regretted, though not to be wondered at, that steps of so inflammatory a tendency have been taken in the army. Your Excellency has, in my opinion, acted wisely. The best way is ever not to attempt to stem a torrent, but to divert it.
I am happy to find you coincident in opinion with me on the conduct proper to be observed by yourself. I am persuaded more and more it is that which is most consistent with your own reputation and the public safety.
Our affairs wear a most serious aspect, as well foreign as domestic. Before this gets to hand your Excellency will probably have seen the provisional articles between Great Britain and these States. It might at first appearance be concluded that these will be a prelude to a general peace, but there are strong reasons to doubt the truth of such a conclusion. Obstacles may axise from different quarters: from the demands of Spain and Holland; from the hope in France of greater acquisitions in the East; and perhaps still more probably, from the insincerity and duplicity of Lord Shelburne, whose politics, founded in the peculiarity of his situation, as well as in the character of the man, may well be suspected of insidiousness. I am really apprehensive if peace does not take place that the negotiations will tend to sow distrust among the allies and weaken the force of the common league. We have, I fear, men among us, and men in trust, who have a hankering after British connection. We have others whose confidence in France savors of credulity. The intrigues of the former and the incautiousness of the latter may be both, though in different degrees, injurious to the American interests, and make it difficult for prudent men to steer a proper course.
There are delicate circumstances with respect to the late foreign transactions, which I am not at liberty to reveal, but which, joined to our internal weaknesses, disorders, follies, and prejudices, make this country stand upon precarious ground.
Some use, perhaps, may be made of these ideas to induce moderation in the army. An opinion that their country does not stand upon a secure footing will operate upon the patriotism of the officers against hazarding any domestic commotions.
When I make these observations I cannot forbear adding that if no excesses take place I shall not be sorry that ill-humors have appeared. I shall not regret importunity, if temperate, from the army.
There are good intentions in the majority of Congress, but there is not sufficient wisdom or decision. There are dangerous prejudices in the particular States opposed to those measures which alone can give stability and prosperity to the Union. There is a fatal opposition to Continental views. Necessity alone can work a reform. But how produce that necessity, how apply it, and how keep it within salutary bounds? I fear we have been contending for a shadow.
The affair of accounts I considered as having been put on a satisfactory footing. The particular States have been required to settle till the first of August, '80, and the Superintendent of Finance has been directed to take measures for settling since that period. I shall immediately see him on the subject.
We have had eight States and a half in favor of a commutation of the half pay for an average of ten years' purchase—that is, five years' full pay instead of half pay for life, which, on a calculation of annuities, is nearly an equivalent. I hope this will now shortly take place.
We have made considerable progress in a plan to be recommended to the several States for funding all the public debts, including those of the army, which is certainly the only way to restore public credit and enable us to continue the war by borrowing abroad, if it should be necessary to continue it.
I omitted mentioning to your Excellency that, from European intelligence, there is great reason to believe, at all events—peace or war,—New York will be evacuated in the spring. It will be a pity if any domestic disturbances should change the plans of the British court.
P. S. — Your Excellency mentions that it has been surmised the plan in agitation was formed in Philadelphia, that combinations have been talked of between the public creditors and the army, and that members of Congress had encouraged the idea. This is partly true. I have myself urged in Congress the propriety of uniting the influence of the public creditors, and the army as part of them, to prevail upon the States to enter into their views. I have expressed the same sentiments out-of-doors. Several other members of Congress have done the same. The meaning, however, of all this was simply that Congress should adopt such a plan as would embrace the relief of all the public creditors, including the army, in order that the personal influence of some, the connections of others, and a sense of justice to the army, as well as the apprehension of ill consequences, might form a mass of influence in each State in favor of the measures of Congress. In this view, as I mentioned to your Excellency in a former letter, I thought the discontents of the army might be turned to a good account. I am still of opinion that their earnest but respectful applications for redress will have a good effect. As to any combination of force, it would only be productive of the horrors of a civil war, might end in the ruin of the country, and would certainly end in the ruin of the army.[Back to Table of Contents]
March 24, 1783.
Your Excellency will, before this reaches you, have received a letter from the Marquis de Lafayette, informing you that the preliminaries of peace between all the belligerent powers have been concluded. I congratulate your Excellency on this happy conclusion of your labors. It now only remains to make solid establishments within, to perpetuate our Union, to prevent our being a ball in the hands of European powers, bandied against each other at their pleasure; in fine to make our independence truly a blessing. This, it is to be lamented, will be an arduous work; for, to borrow a figure from mechanics, the centrifugal is much stronger than the centripetal force in these States,—the seeds of disunion much more numerous than those of union.
I will add that your Excellency's exertions are as essential to accomplish this end as they have been to establish independence. I will upon a future occasion open myself upon this subject.
Your conduct in the affair of the officers is highly pleasing here. The measures of the army are such as I could have wished them, and will add new lustre to their character as well as strengthen the hands of Congress.[Back to Table of Contents]
March 25, 1783.
I wrote your Excellency a day or two ago by express. Since that, a committee, appointed on the communications from you, have had a meeting, and find themselves embarrassed. They have requested me to communicate our embarrassments to you in confidence, and to ask your private opinion. The army, by their resolutions, express an expectation that Congress will not disband them previous to a settlement of accounts and the establishment of funds. Congress may resolve upon the first, but the general opinion is that they cannot constitutionally declare the second. They have no right, by the Confederation, to demand funds—they can only recommend—and to determine that the army shall be continued in service till the States grant them, would be to determine that the whole present army shall be a standing army during peace, unless the States comply with the requisition for funds. This, it is supposed, would excite the alarm and jealousies of the States, and increase, rather than lessen, the opposition to the funding scheme. It is also observed the longer the army is kept together the more the payment of past dues is procrastinated, the abilities of the States being exhausted for their immediate support, and a new debt every day incurred. It is further suggested that there is danger in keeping the army together in a state of inactivity, and that a separation of the several lines would facilitate the settlement of accounts, diminish present expense, and avoid the danger of union. It is added that the officers of each line, being on the spot, might, by their own solicitations and those of their friends, forward the adoption of funds in the different States.
A proposition will be transmitted to you by Colonel Bland, in the form of a resolution to be adopted by Congress, framed upon the principles of the foregoing reasoning.
Another proposition is contained in the following resolution:
“That the Commander-in-Chief be informed it is the intention of Congress to effect the settlement of the accounts of the respective lines previous to their reduction, and that Congress are doing, and will continue to do, every thing in their power towards procuring satisfactory securities for what shall be found due on such settlement.”
The scope of this your Excellency will perceive without comment.
I am to request you will favor me with your sentiments on both the propositions, and in general with your ideas of what had best be done with reference to the expectation expressed by the officers; taking into view the situation of Congress. On one side the army expect they will not be disbanded till accounts are settled and funds established. On the other hand, they have no constitutional power of doing any thing more than to recommend funds, and are persuaded that these will meet with mountains of prejudice in some of the States.
A considerable progress has been made in a plan for funding the public debts, and it is to be hoped it will erelong go forth to the States, with every argument that can give it success.[Back to Table of Contents]
March 25, 1783.
The inclosed1 I write more in a public than in a private capacity. Here I write as a citizen zealous for the true happiness of this country; as a soldier who feels what is due to an army which has suffered every thing and done much for the safety of America.
I sincerely wish ingratitude was not so natural to the human heart as it is. I sincerely wish there were no seeds of it in those who direct the councils of the United States. But while I urge the army to moderation, and advise your Excellency to take the direction of their discontents, and endeavor to confine them within the bounds of duty, I cannot, as an honest man, conceal from you that I am afraid their distrusts have too much foundation. Republican jealousy has in it a principle of hostility to an army, whatever be their merits, whatever be their claims to the gratitude of the community. It acknowledges their services with unwillingness, and rewards them with reluctance. I see this temper, though smothered with great care, involuntarily breaking out upon too many occasions. I often feel a mortification, which it would be impolitic to express, that sets my passions at variance with my reason. Too many, I perceive, if they could do it with safety or color, would be glad to elude the just pretensions of the army. I hope this is not the prevailing disposition.
But supposing the country ungrateful, what can the army do? It must submit to its hard fate. To seek redress by its arms would end in its ruin. The army would moulder by its own weight, and for want of the means of keeping together the soldiers would abandon their officers; there would be no chance of success without having recourse to means that would reverse our revolution. I make these observations, not that I imagine your Excellency can want motives to continue your influence in the path of moderation, but merely to show why I cannot myself enter into the views of coercion which some gentlemen entertain, for I confess, could force avail, I should almost wish to see it employed. I have an indifferent opinion of the honesty of this country, and ill forebodings as to its future system.
Your Excellency will perceive I have written with sensations of chagrin, and will make allowance for coloring, but the general picture is too true. God send us all more wisdom.[Back to Table of Contents]
I have received your Excellency’s letters of the thirty-first of March and fourth of April, the last today. The one to Colonel Bland, as member of the committee, has been read in committee confidentially, and gave great satisfaction. The idea of not attempting to separate the army before the settlement of accounts, corresponds with my proposition. That of endeavoring to let them have some pay, had also appeared to me indispensable. The expectations of the army, as represented by your Excellency, are moderation itself. To-morrow we confer with the Superintendent of Finance on the subject of money. There will be difficulty, but not, we hope, insurmountable.
I thank your Excellency for the hints you are so obliging as to give me in your private letter. I do not wonder at the suspicions that have been infused; nor should I be surprised to hear that I have been pointed out as one of the persons concerned in playing the game described. But facts must speak for themselves. The gentlemen who were here from the army, and General McDougal who is still here, will be able to give a true account of those who have supported the just claims of the army, and of those who have endeavored to elude them.
There are two classes of men, sir, in Congress, of very different views: one attached to State, the other to Continental, politics. The latter have been strenuous advocates for funding the public debt upon solid securities; the former have given every opposition in their power, and have only been dragged into the measures which are now near being adopted, by the clamors of the army and other public creditors.
The advocates for Continental funds have blended the interests of the army with other creditors, from a conviction that no funds for partial purposes will go through those States to whose citizens the United States are largely indebted; or, if they should be carried through, from impressions of the moment, would have the necessary stability, for the influence of those unprovided for would always militate against a provision for others in exclusion of them. It is in vain to tell men who have parted with a large part of their property on the public faith, that the services of the army are entitled to a preference; they would reason from their interest and their feelings; these would tell them that they had as great a title as any other class of the community to public justice, and that while this was denied to them it would be unreasonable to make them bear their part of a burthen for the benefit of others. This is the way they would reason; and as their influence in some of the States was considerable, they would have been able to prevent any partial provision.
But the question was not merely how to do justice to the creditors, but how to restore public credit. Taxation in this country, it was found, would not supply a sixth part of the public necessities. The loans in Europe were far short of the balance, and the prospect every day diminishing: the Court of France telling us in plain terms she could not even do as much as she had done; individuals in Holland, and everywhere else, refusing to part with their money on the precarious tenure of the mere faith of this country, without any pledge for the payment either of principal or interest.
In this situation what was to be done? It was essential to our cause that vigorous efforts should be made to restore public credit; it was necessary to combine all the motives to this end that could operate upon different descriptions of persons in the different States; the necessities and discontents of the army presented themselves as a powerful engine.
But, sir, these gentlemen would be puzzled to support their insinuations by a single fact. It was, indeed, proposed to appropriate the intended impost on trade to the army debt; and, what was extraordinary, by gentlemen who had expressed their dislike to the principle of the fund. I acknowledge I was one that opposed this, for the reasons already assigned and for these additional ones. That was the fund on which we most counted; to obtain further loans in Europe, it was necessary we should have a fund sufficient to pay the interest of what had been borrowed and what was to be borrowed. The truth was, these people, in this instance, wanted to play off the army against the funding system.
As to Mr. Morris, I will give your Excellency a true explanation of his conduct. He had been for some time pressing Congress to endeavor to obtain funds, and had found a great backwardness in the business. He found the taxes unproductive in the different States; he found the loans in Europe making a very slow progress; he found himself pressed on all hands for supplies; he found himself, in short, reduced to this alternative: either of making engagements which he could not fulfil, or declaring his resignation in case funds were not established by a given time. Had he followed the first course, the bubble must soon have burst; he must have sacrificed his credit and his character, and public credit, already in a ruinous condition, would have lost its last support.
He wisely judged it better to resign. This might increase the embarrassments of the moment; but the necessity of the case, it was to be hoped, would produce the proper measures; and he might then resume the direction of the machine with advantage and success.
He also had some hope that his resignation would prove a stimulus to Congress.
He was, however, ill advised in the publication of his letters of resignation. This was an imprudent step, and has given a handle to his personal enemies, who, by playing upon the passions of others, have drawn some well-meaning men into the cry against him. But Mr. Morris certainly deserves a great deal from his country. I believe no man in this country but himself could have kept the money machine a-going during the period he has been in office. From every thing that appears, his administration has been upright as well as able.
The truth is, the old leaven of Deane and Lee is, at this day, working against Mr. Morris. He happened, in that dispute, to have been on the side of Deane; and certain men can never forgive him. A man whom I once esteemed, and whom I will rather suppose duped than wicked, is the second actor in this business.
The matter with respect to the army which has occasioned most altercation in Congress and most dissatisfaction in the army, has been the half-pay. The opinions on this head have been two: one party was for referring the several lines to their States, to make such commutation as they should think proper; the other, for making the commutation by Congress, and funding it on Continental security. I was of this last opinion, and so were all those who will be represented as having made use of the army as puppets. Our principal reasons were: Firstly, by referring the lines to their respective States, those which were opposed to the half-pay would have taken advantage of the officers’ necessities to make the commutation far short of an equivalent. Secondly, the inequality which would have arisen in the different States when the officers came to compare (as has happened in other cases), would have been a new source of discontent. Thirdly, such a reference was a continuance of the old wretched State system, by which the ties between Congress and the army have been nearly dissolved, by which the resources of the States have been diverted from the common treasury and wasted—a system which your Excellency has often justly reprobated.
I have gone into these details to give you a just idea of the parties in Congress. I assure you, upon my honor, sir, I have given you a candid state of facts, to the best of my judgment. The men against whom the suspicions you mention must be directed, are in general the most sensible, the most liberal, the most independent, and the most respectable characters in our body, as well as the most un-equivocal friends to the army. In a word, they are the men who think continentally.
I am chairman of a committee for peace arrangements. We shall ask your Excellency’s opinion at large on a proper military peace establishment. I will just hint to your Excellency, that our prejudices will make us wish to keep up as few troops as possible.
We this moment learn an officer is arrived from Sir Guy Carleton with dispatches, probably official accounts of peace.[Back to Table of Contents]
April 9, 1783.
Congress having appointed a committee consisting of Messrs. Madison, Osgood, Wilson, Ellsworth, and myself, to consider what arrangements it will be proper to adopt in the different departments with reference to a peace, I am directed by the committee to address your Excellency on the subject of the military department.
The committee wish your Excellency’s sentiments at large on such institutions of every kind for the interior defence of these States as may be best adapted to their circumstances, and conciliate security with economy and with the principles of our government. In this they will be glad if you will take as great latitude as you may think necessary, and will therefore omit entering into any details.
The committee apprehend it to be the intention of Congress to lay down a general plan, to be carried into execution as circumstances will permit, and that in attending to such dispositions as the immediate situation of the country may require, they are chiefly desirous of establishing good principles that will have a permanent salutary operation.1[Back to Table of Contents]
April 15, 1783.
There are two resolutions passed relative to the restoration of the British prisoners, and to making arrangements for the surrender of the posts in the possession of the British troops; the first of which is to be transacted by you in conjunction with the Secretary of War, the latter by yourself alone. I will explain to you some doubts which have arisen in Congress with regard to the true construction of the provisional treaty, which may be of use to you in transacting the business above mentioned.
The sixth article declares that there shall be no future confiscations, etc., after the ratification of the treaty in America, and the seventh article makes the surrender of prisoners, evacuation of posts, cessation of hostilities, etc., to depend on that event, to wit, the ratification of the treaty in America.
Now the doubt is, whether the treaty means the provisional treaty already concluded, or the definitive treaty to be concluded. The last construction is most agreeable to the letter of the provisional articles, the former most agreeable to the usual practice of nations, for hostilities commonly cease on the ratification of the preliminary treaty.
There is a great diversity of opinion in Congress. It will be, in my opinion, advisable, at the same time that we do not communicate our doubts to the British, to extract their sense of the matter from them.
This may be done by asking them at what periods they are willing to stipulate the surrender of posts, at the same time that they are asked in what manner it will be the most convenient to them to receive the prisoners.
If they postpone the evacuation of the different posts to the definitive treaty, we shall then be justified in doing the same with respect to prisoners. The question will then arise, whether, on principles of humanity, economy, and liberality, we ought not to restore the prisoners, at all events, without delay? Much may be said on both sides. I doubt the expedience of a total restoration of prisoners till they are willing to fix the epochs at which they will take leave of us. It will add considerably to their strength, and accidents, though improbable, may happen.
I confess, however, I am not clear in my opinion.
The provisional or preliminary treaty is ratified by us—for the greater caution.[Back to Table of Contents]
to governor clinton
May 14, 1783.
The President of Congress will of course have transmitted to your Excellency the plan lately adopted by Congress for funding the public debt. This plan was framed to accommodate it to the objections of some of the States, but this spirit of accommodation will only serve to render it less efficient without making it more palatable. The opposition of the State of Rhode Island, for instance, is chiefly founded upon these two considerations: the merchants are opposed to any revenue from trade; and the State, depending almost wholly on commerce, wants to have credit for the amount of the duties.
Persuaded that the plan now proposed will have little more chance of success than a better one, and that, if agreed to by all the States, it will in a great measure fail in the execution, it received my negative. My principal objections were:
First, that it does not designate the funds (except the impost) on which the whole interest is to arise, and by which (selecting the capital articles of visible property) the collection would have been easy, the funds productive, and necessarily increasing with the increase of the country.
Second, that the duration of the funds is not coextensive with the debt, but limited to twenty-five years, though there is a moral certainty that in that period the principal will not by the present provision be fairly extinguished.
Third, that the nomination and appointment of the collectors of the revenue are to reside in the State, instead of at least the nomination being in the United States; the consequence of which will be that those States which have little interest in the funds, by having a ’small share of the public debt due to their own citizens, will take care to appoint such persons as are least likely to collect the revenue.
The evils resulting from these defects will be that in many instances the objects of the revenues will be improperly chosen, and will consist of a multitude of little articles, which will, on experiment, prove insufficient; that for want of a vigorous collection in each State the revenue will be unproductive in many, and will fall chiefly upon those States which are governed by most liberal principles; that for want of an adequate security the evidences of the public debt will not be transferable for any thing like their value; that this not admitting an incorporation of the creditors in the nature of banks, will deprive the public of the benefit of an increased circulation, and of course will disable the people from paying the taxes for want of a sufficient medium.
I shall be happy to be mistaken in my apprehensions, but the experiment must determine.
I hope our State will consent to the plan proposed, because it is in her interests at all events to promote the payment of the public debt on Continental funds (independent of the general considerations of union and propriety).
I am much mistaken if the debts due from the United States to the citizens of the State of New York do not considerably exceed its proportion of the necessary funds; of course, it has an immediate interest that there should be a Continental provision for them. But there are superior motives that ought to operate in every State—the obligations of national faith, honor, and reputation.
Individuals have been already too long sacrificed to public convenience. It will be shocking, and, indeed, an eternal reproach to this country, if we begin the peaceable enjoyment of our independence by a violation of all the principles of honesty and true policy.
It is worthy of remark that at least four fifths of the domestic debt are due to the citizens of the States, from Pennsylvania, inclusively, northward.
P. S.—It is particularly interesting that the State should have a representation here. Not only matters are depending which require a full representation in Congress, and there is now a thin one, but those matters are of a nature so particularly interesting to our State, that we ought not to be without a voice in them. I wish two other gentlemen of the delegation may appear as soon as possible, for it would be very injurious for me to remain much longer here. Having no future views in public life, I owe it to myself without delay to enter upon the care of my private concerns in earnest.[Back to Table of Contents]
to governor clinton
June 1, 1783.
In my last letter to your Excellency I took occasion to mention that it was of great importance to the State at this time to have a representation here, as points in which, by its present situation, it is particularly interested are daily and will be daily agitated.
It is also of importance at this moment to the United States (not only from general consideration, but) because we have a very thin representation in Congress, and are frequently unable to transact any of those matters which require nine States. I wish your Excellency would urge a couple of gentlemen to come on, as it becomes highly inconvenient to me to remain here, and as I have stayed the full time to be expected.
I observe with great regret the intemperate proceedings among the people in different parts of the State, in violation of a treaty, the faithful observance of which so deeply interests the United States.
Surely the State of New York, with its capital and its frontier posts (on which its important fur trade depends), in the hands of the British troops, ought to take care that nothing is done to furnish a pretext on the other side, even for delaying, much less for refusing, the execution of the treaty. We may imagine that the situation of Great Britain puts her under a necessity, at all events, of fulfilling her engagements and cultivating the good-will of this country.
This is, no doubt, her true policy: but when we feel that passion makes us depart from the dictates of reason; when we have seen that passion has had so much influence in the conduct of the British councils in the whole course of the war; when we recollect that those who govern them are men like ourselves, and alike subject to passions and resentments; when we reflect also that all the great men in England are not united in the liberal scheme of policy with respect to this country, and that in the anarchy which prevails there is no knowing to whom the reins of government may be committed; when we recollect how little in a condition we are to force a compliance with our claims we ought certainly to be cautious in what manner we act, especially when we in particular have so much at stake, and should not openly provoke a breach of faith on the other side by setting the example.
An important distinction is not sufficiently attended to. The fifth article is recommendatory; the sixth, positive. There is no option on the part of the particular States as to any future confiscations, prosecutions, or injuries of any kind, to person, liberty, or property, on account of any thing done in the war. It is matter of discretion in the States whether they will comply with the recommendations contained in the fifth article; but no part of the sixth can be departed from by them without a direct breach of public faith and of the Confederation. The power of making treaties is exclusively lodged in Congress. That power includes whatever is essential to the termination of the war and to the preservation of the general safety. Indemnity to individuals in similar cases is a usual stipulation in treaties of peace, of which many precedents are to be produced.
Should it be said that the associations of the people, without legal authority, do not amount to a breach of the public faith, the answer is, if the government does not repress them, and prevent them having effect, it is as much a breach as a formal refusal to comply on its part. In the eye of a foreign nation, if our engagements are broken, it is of no moment whether it is for the want of good intention in the government, or for want of power to restrain its subjects.
Suppose a violence committed by an American vessel on the vessel of another nation on the high seas, and after complaint made there is no redress given. Is not this a hostility against the injured nation which will justify reprisals?
But if I am not misinformed, there are violations going on in form of law. I am told that indictments continue to be brought under the former confiscation laws. A palpable infraction, if true, of the sixth article of the treaty, to which an immediate stop ought no doubt to be put.
It has been said by some men that the operation of this treaty is suspended till the definitive treaty; a plain subterfuge. Whatever is clearly expressed in the provisional or preliminary treaty is as binding from the moment it is made as the definitive treaty, which, in fact, only develops, explains, and fixes more precisely what may have been too generally expressed in the former.
Suppose the British should now send away not only the negroes, but all other property, and all the public records in their possession belonging to us, on the pretence above stated; should we not justly accuse them with breaking faith? Is this not already done in the case of the negroes who have been carried away, though founded upon a very different principle—a doubtful construction of the treaty, not a denial of its immediate operation.
In fine, is it our interest to advance this doctrine and to countenance the position that nothing is binding till the definitive treaty, when there are examples of years intervening between the preliminary and definitive treaties?
Sir Guy Carleton, in his correspondence, has appeared to consider the treaty as immediately obligatory, and it has been the policy which I have pursued to promote the same idea.
I am not, indeed, apprehensive of the renewal of the war, for peace is necessary to Great Britain. I think it also most probable her disposition to conciliate this country will outweigh the resentments which a breach of our engagements is calculated to inspire. But with a treaty which has exceeded the hopes of the most sanguine; which, in the articles of boundary and the fisheries, is even better than we asked; circumstanced, too, as this country is with respect to the means of making war, I think it the height of imprudence to run any risk. Great Britain, without recommencing hostilities, may evade parts of the treaty. She may keep possession of the frontier posts; she may obstruct the free enjoyment of the fisheries; she may be indisposed to such extensive concessions in matters of commerce as it is our interest to aim at. In all this she would find no opposition from any foreign power, and we are not in a condition to oblige her to any thing. If we imagine that France, obviously embarrassed herself in her finances, would renew the war to oblige Great Britain to the restoration of frontier posts, or to a compliance with the stipulations respecting the fisheries (especially after a manifest breach of the treaty on our part), we speculate much at random. Observations might be made on the last article which would prove that it is not the policy of France to support our interest there. Are we prepared, for the mere gratification of our resentments, to put those great national objects to the hazard: to leave our Western frontier in a state of insecurity; to relinquish the fur-trade; and to abridge our pretensions to the fisheries? Do we think national character so light a thing as to be willing to sacrifice the public faith to individual animosity?
Let the case be fairly stated: Great Britain and America, two independent nations, at war. The former in possession of considerable posts and districts of territory belonging to the latter, and also of the means of obstructing certain commercial advantages in which it is deeply interested.
But it is not uncommon in treaties of peace for the uti possidetis to take place. Great Britain, however, in the present instance, stipulates to restore all our posts and territories in her possession. She even adds an extent not within our original claims, more than a compensation for a small part ceded in another quarter. She agrees to readmit us to a participation in the fisheries. What equivalent do we give for this? Congress are to recommend the restoration of property to those who have adhered to her, and expressly engage that no future injury shall be done them in person, liberty, or property. This is the sole condition, on our part, where there is not an immediate reciprocity (the recovery of debts and liberation of prisoners being mutual, the former, indeed, only declaring what the rights of private faith, which all civilized nations hold sacred, would have declared without it), and stands as the single equivalent for all the restitutions and concessions to be made by Great Britain. Will it be honest in us to violate this condition, or will it be prudent to put it in competition with all the important matters to be performed on the other side?
Will foreign nations be willing to undertake any thing with us, or for us, when they find that the nature of our governments will allow no dependence to be placed upon our engagements? I have omitted saying any thing of the impolicy of inducing by our severity a great number of useful citizens, whose situations do not make them a proper object of resentment, to abandon the country to form settlements that will hereafter become our rivals, animated with a hatred to us which will descend to their posterity. Nothing, however, can be more unwise than to contribute, as we are doing, to people the shores and wilderness of Nova Scotia, a colony which, by its position, will become a competitor with us, among other things, in that branch of commerce on which our navigation and navy will. essentially depend;—I mean the fisheries, in which I have no doubt the State of New York will hereafter have a considerable share.
To your Excellency I freely deliver my sentiments, because I am persuaded you cannot be a stranger to the force of these considerations. I fear not even to hazard them to the justice and good sense of those whom I have the honor to represent. I esteem it my duty to do it, because the question is important to the interests of the State in its relation to the United States.
Those who consult only theft passions might choose to construe what I say as too favorable to a set of men who have been the enemies of the public liberty, but those for whose esteem I am most concerned will acquit me of any personal consideration, and will perceive that I only urge the cause of national honor, safety, and advantage. We have assumed an independent station; we ought to feel and to act in a manner consistent with the dignity of that station.
I anxiously wish to see every prudent measure taken to prevent those combinations which will certainly disgrace us, if they do not involve us in other calamities. Whatever distinctions are judged necessary to be made in the cases of those persons who have been in opposition to the common cause, let them be made by legal authority, on a fair construction of the treaty, consistent with national faith and national honor.
1 P. S.—Your Excellency will have been informed that Congress have instructed General Washington to garrison the frontier posts, when surrendered, with the three years’ Continental troops. This is more for the interest of the State than to have them garrisoned at its particular expense, and I should wish that permanent provision might be made on the same principle. I wait to see whether any Continental peace establishment for garrisons, etc., will take place, before I engage the consent of Congress to a separate provision.
I cannot forbear adding a word on the subject of money. The only reliance we now have for redeeming a large anticipation on the public credit, already made and making for the benefit of the army, is on the taxes coming in. The collection hitherto is out of all proportion to the demand. It is of vast consequence at this juncture that every thing possible should be done to forward it. I forbear entering into details which would be very striking upon this subject. I will only say that unless there is a serious exertion in the States, public credit must erelong receive another shock very disagreeable in its consequences.[Back to Table of Contents]
to john dickinson 1
Having always entertained an esteem for you personally, I could not, without reluctance, yield to impressions that might weaken that sentiment, and it is with pain I find myself drawn by circumstances to animadvert upon the late message from the Executive Council to the Assembly of Pennsylvania relative to the mutiny, in a manner which may seem to impeach the candor of those who were the authors of it.
But it will be impossible for persons who have read the report of the committee and the message of the Council, however inclined to make allowances for the force of involuntary bias, not to conclude that on one side or the other the facts have been wilfully discolored. I decline any attempt to set the public opinion right upon this subject, because, after all that can be said, the judgments of men will eventually be determined by personal and party preposses sions. So far as I am concerned, I persuade myself that those who are acquainted with me will place entire confidence in my fairness and veracity. I doubt not your Excellency’s friends will be equally partial to you, and those of the Council to them. But though I should despair of rectifying or fixing the public opinion by an appeal to the public, and though I have seen too much of the ridicule thrown upon such appeals from men in official stations, and of the ill effect they have had upon the national character, not to be willing to sacrifice the desire of justifying myself to considerations of prudence and propriety, yet I cannot forbear indulging my feelings so far as to enter into a few explanations with your Excellency, submitting the justness of them to the testimony of your own mind.
As this is a mere private discussion, I address myself to your Excellency in particular; and the rather, as, from the style and manner of the message, I take it for granted you had the principal agency in it, and I shall consider, on the same grounds, the notes in ———1 paper of the ———1 , as a comment on the report of the committee by yourself, in aid of the message.
I take up the matter individually, because I mean to treat it on a private footing, and because, though I do not acknowledge any peculiar responsibility, it happened to be my lot, as chairman, principally to conduct the conferences on the part of the committee.
I regard the whole of this business as a most unfortunate one, in which, probably, none of the actors will acquire great credit. I deplore it as tending to interrupt the harmony between Congress and a respectable, a meritorious member of the Union. Who were right or who were wrong is a question of less importance than how mutual irritations may be best healed. Whatever revives or continues the former, is to be regretted. I lament to be under an inducement to discuss circumstances that relate to it in the remotest degree. Nothing but an attack upon the ingenuousness of my conduct could have called me to it. Its prudence, either collectively or individually, would patiently have been consigned to the lash of censure and criticism, merited or unmerited.
Happily in the present case, the members of the committee have a strong ground, from which they cannot easily be forced. Apprehensive of misconception, I will not say of misrepresentation, they tried to render it impossible by written communications. The presumption, with impartial minds, cannot fail to be in favor of that side which gave so decisive a proof of its disposition to fairness as to endeavor to put it out of its own power to misrepresent.
The professed scruples of the Council cannot be admitted to have any weight. Usage and the plainest rules of propriety will dictate that it never could have wounded the dignity or delicacy of the executive of any State to have given to a committee of Congress, appointed to confer on a subject of moment, a written answer to a request in writing after previous explanations. The fact stated speaks for itself. The consequences show that the precaution of the committee was well judged, and that it would have been well for the Council to have concurred.
In the present case it might be observed that there was, in the first instance, a written application from Congress to the Council, in the customary form of resolutions; and though a committee was authorized to confer and explain, a formal and authentic answer might reasonably have been expected by Congress, and, when desired by the committee, should have been understood as desired on their behalf.
There is an awkwardness in reasoning upon selfevident positions; but as the Council have, by their conduct in the first instance and by their message since, put forward a doubt upon the subject, and made it a point of importance, I shall be excused for examining it a little further. On what could the, objection of the Council be founded? They say it had been unusual. Admitting the fact, was the mere novelty of the thing a sufficient reason against it? If there was no apparent inconvenience in making a new precedent; if, on the contrary, there was a manifest convenience in it, ought not such a punctilio to have given way to considerations of utility?
Was it derogatory to the dignity of the Council? Surely, if they communicate in writing with the executive servants of Congress, even those in subordinate stations, as is the practice of every day, and as is indispensable to the prosecution of public business, they might, at less expense of dignity, pursue the same mode with a part of that body itself.
The distinction taken by the Council in their message to the Assembly, respecting the responsibility of such executive officers, as not applicable to a committee, if it amounts to any thing, proves only this: That such officers ought in prudence to take greater precautions for their own justification than a committee of Congress need to do. It is not to be inferred, if a committee of Congress acting ministerially think it expedient to use circumspection, that those with whom they are transacting business can with propriety refuse to join them in that mode which is best adapted to precision and certainty.
But indeed the ground of distinction is erroneous. A committee of Congress act in a ministerial capacity, and are therefore responsible to the body to which they belong, as well as the servants of that body, though in a different manner. If it be said that they do not act ministerially, but stand in the place of Congress, then the Council, upon their own principles, ought to have complied with their request.
To diminish the exceptionableness of their refusal, it is true, as stated by the Council, that though they said they could not condescend to do what the committee had asked, yet they declared themselves willing to grant an answer in writing if Congress should request it, and that they proposed that the committee should put their verbal answer in writing, to be afterward perused and examined by them.
The answer of the committee, as I doubt not your Excellency will recollect, was, as to the first point, that Congress in all probability would not make the request, having determined (as the Council had been already informed) not to resume their deliberations in this city until effective measures had been taken to suppress the mutiny, and should they assemble, would naturally feel a delicacy in requesting what had been denied to their committee. And as to the second point, that the Council having judged it inexpedient to give a written answer, the committee would content themselves with making the most accurate report in their power, relying upon the confidence of the body to which they belonged and upon the candor of the Council.
Your Excellency is too good a judge of human nature, as well as the force of language, not to have perceived at the time the effect which the refusal of the Council had upon my mind. I own it struck me as an uncandid reserve, or an unbecoming stateliness, and in either supposition a disrespect to the body of which the committee were members.
Though nothing enters less into my temper than an inclination to fetter business by punctilio, after the Council had discovered such overwhelming nicety I should have thought it a degradation to my official character to have consented to their proposal.
The desire of self-justification is so natural that I should not have been surprised to have seen the transactions which are the subject of the Council’s message receive a coloring favorable to their purpose; but I did not expect to see material facts either suppressed or denied.
The report made by the committee on the first interview with the Council was, I acknowledge, from memory, and therefore I admit a possibility of error; but so far as my memory can be relied on, the representation was just. And I am certain that there is a mistake in the insinuation that the circumstance of the message sent to Congress by the Board of Sergeants was not mentioned at all to the Council, for I have a note of it, taken immediately after the first conference subsequent to the mutiny. The affair, by the event of ———, having assumed a more serious aspect, I kept a regular minute of the proceedings, a summary of which made up our report to Congress, and which I shall annex at large to this letter for your Excellency’s perusal.
The message entirely omits the declaration of the Council that ———1 ; and the note says that the Council only declared: “That they could not be sure that such another insult would produce those exertions.”2 The difference in this article is of great importance. The declaration made so deep an impression at the time that almost the precise words remained in my memory. They were twice repeated, as well when we saw your Excellency alone in your own house in the morning, as when you delivered to us in the Council-chamber the determination of the Council.
Mr. Ellsworth 1 in half an hour afterwards repeated them to several members of Congress assembled at the President’s house, and in a few hours from that time I committed them to writing. I cannot suppose your Excellency’s recollection fails you in this particular, and I must pointedly appeal to your candor.
To show the inaccuracy with which the report of the committee was composed, it is observed in the notes with respect to that part which relates to the commission given by the mutineers to the officers whom they had chosen to represent them, that only two hours had intervened between that event and the conference with the Council, and that it was very improbable the knowledge of it could have so early reached the committee. It is added that none of the Council remembers to have heard a single syllable respecting it during the whole conference.
As to the argument drawn from the short interval between the delivery of the commission and the conference, it will be sufficient to say that the committee held a constant communication with General St. Clair, and that he kept a vigilant eye upon all the motions of the mutineers; that his access to them was easy; that the fact in question was a matter of immediate notoriety; that two hours were abundant time for a thing of that nature to be conveyed from the barracks to General St. Clair’s quarters; and that one of the committee had actually seen and obtained the intelligence from him a little time before the interview with the Council commenced.
It is much. more extraordinary that the Council should have been apprised of it so late, than that the committee should have known it so early. As to the memory of the Council, it is unfortunate it should have been so fallible as it is said to have been; but I would rather suppose “in the quick succession of circumstances” the matter had escaped their recollection, than that my minutes as well as my mem ory should have deceived me. I well recollect also that your Excellency, when it was mentioned, acknowledged that it rather contradicted the pacific appearance which the conduct of the troops in other respects wore.
These are the essential differences in point of fact between the report of the committee and the message of the Council; the whole complexion, indeed, of the one materially varies from the other; but the most common observer must have noticed how different an aspect the same facts will bear differently dressed and arranged. It was to avoid this we proposed to reduce them to writing, but as this has not been done, spectators must judge, from the situation of the parties and the course of the transactions, which side has given the justest relation.
I cannot, however, forbear remarking that I see expressions of civility on the part of the committee, making a figure in the message very different from their genuine intention, being introduced in a manner that gives them the air of concessions in favor of the conduct of the Council. Your Excellency will certainly recollect that the committee were very remote from a concurrence in sentiment with the Council; and, though they did not presume to judge of the disposition of the citizens, strongly urged the expedience and necessity of calling out the militia, and facility of employing them with success against an unofficered and disorderly body of mutinous soldiers. It is true also that they acknowledged the candor with which the Council exposed to them what they deemed the temper of their citizens and their own difficulties and embarrassments, which were, no doubt, delineated with great energy of language and display of circumstances, but they certainly never admitted the candor of refusing an answer in writing, which was a part of the business transacted with the Council; nor did they withdraw without giving an intelligible intimation of their sense of this proceeding.
I was also surprised to see any part of the private and confidential conversation I had with your Excellency ushered into the message from the Council, and moulded into such a shape as to imply, by an obvious construction, an approbation of their reasons. Your Excellency will admit the following state of this transaction to be a just one.
I waited upon the Council to correct a piece of information I had given them respecting ammunition, but even this is misstated, as will be seen by my minutes. Having done this, my official business ended, when I was taken aside by your Excellency, and a conversation passed in declared confidence. You informed me that a meeting of the militia officers was then holding, and in consultation with the Council about eventual measures (in consequence, as I conjectured, of a communication to you the preceding evening from the delegates of the State, of the intention of Congress to remove from the city in case they did not receive satisfactory assurances of support). You added that you hoped nothing would be precipitated, but that proper allowance would be made for the situation of the Council.
I understood your observations with reference to the departure of Congress, and replied to this effect That I viewed the departure of Congress as a delicate measure, including consequences important to the national character abroad, and critical with respect to the State of Pennsylvania, and, in particular, the city of Philadelphia; that the triumph of a handful of mutinous soldiers, permitted in a place which is considered as the capital of America, to surround and, in fact, imprison Congress, without the least effort on the part of the citizens to uphold their dignity and authority, so as to oblige them to remove from the place which had been their residence during the Revolution, would, it was to be feared, be viewed at a distance as a general disaffection of the citizens to the Federal Government, might discredit its negotiations, and affect the national interests; that at home it might give a deep wound to the reputation of Pennsylvania, might draw upon it the resentments of the other States, and sow discord between Congress and the State; that the removal of Congress would probably bring the affair to a crisis, and, by convincing the mutineers that extremities were intended, would either intimidate them into a submission, or determine them to immediate excesses; that, impressed with these considerations, and still hoping, notwithstanding some appearances to the contrary, that the mutineers might be sincere in their professions of submission, or that the Council, on further examination, would find it in their power to act with vigor, I had declined giving my assent to a report in writing, which, would necessarily be followed by the departure of Congress; that though the committee had no discretion by the powers under which they acted, but were bound, by the tenor of their instructions, the moment they did not receive “satisfactory assurances of prompt and adequate exertions on the part of the State for supporting the public authority,” to advise the adjournment of Congress to Trenton or Princeton, and I therefore considered the delay of this advice as at their extreme peril; yet, as to myself, I should persist in it till the result of the present consultation with the militia officers, or till some new circumstance should turn up to explain the designs of the mutineers; and in pursuing this line of conduct I should counteract the sense of some gentlemen whose feelings upon the occasion were keen, and the opinions of others who thought the situation of Congress, under the existing circumstances, extremely awkward, precarious, and unjustifiable to their constituents.
Your Excellency approved my intention, wished for time, and promised if any new resolution should be taken to give me immediate notice of it.
The meeting of the militia officers dissolved; I heard nothing from your Excellency. General St. Clair, about two in the afternoon, informed the committee that the officers appointed by the soldiers to manage their business had, in the first instance, refused to give him an account of their transactions, the which was only extracted from them by a peremptory demand. He mentioned to us the instructions they had received from the soldiers, which contained faint and affected concessions, mixed with new and inadmissible demands.
The whole affair wore the complexion of collusion between the officers of the committee and the soldiery, and of a mere amusement on their part until they could gain fresh strength and execute their project, whatever it might be, with greater advantage.
This behavior of the officers gave the affair a new and more serious aspect, and overcame my opposition to the report. Mr. Peters, on hearing the relation of General St. Clair, declared at once that he thought the committee had then no alternative; at least, what he said was understood in this sense by General St. Clair, Mr. Ellsworth, and myself. If I am not much mistaken, General St. Clair also expressed his opinion that Congress were unsafe in the city.
The ideas I suggested to your Excellency, in the conversation I have mentioned, were substantially expressed to several members of Congress as the motives of my delay, and particularly, I recollect, to Mr. Madison, with these observations in addition: That though I was fully convinced Congress, under an immediate view of circumstances, would in reality be justified in withdrawing from a place where such an outrage to government had been with impunity perpetrated by a body of armed mutineers, still, for several days, in complete command of the city, and where either the feebleness of public councils or the indisposition of the citizens afforded no assurance of protection and support, yet, as the opinions of men would be governed by events, and as the most probable event was that the removal of Congress, announcing decisive measures of coercion to the soldiery, would awe them into submission, there was great danger that the reputation of Congress would suffer by the easy termination of the business, and that they would be accused of levity, timidity, or rashness.
Though not within the scope of my original intention, I will indulge in a few additional reflections on this subject. I am sensible that the Council, in some respects, stand upon advantageous ground in this discussion. Congress left the city because they had no forces at hand, no jurisdiction over the militia, and no assurances of effectual support from those who had. The Council, as the executive of the State, were necessitated to remain on the spot. Soon after Congress removed, the mutineers were deserted by their leaders and surrendered at discretion.
The multitude will be very apt to conclude that the affair was of trifling consequence; that it vanished under its own insignificance; that Congress took up the matter in too high a tone of authority; that they discovered a prudish nicety and irritability about their own dignity; that the Council were more temperate, more humane, and possessed of greater foresight.
The bias in favor of an injured army, the propensity of the human mind to lean to the speciousness of professed humanity rather than to the necessary harshness of authority, the vague and imperfect notions of what is due to public authority in an infant popular government, and the insinuating plausibility of a well-constructed message, will all contribute to that conclusion.
But let us suppose an impartial man of sense, well acquainted with facts, to form an argument upon the subject. It appears to me he might naturally fall into this train of combination.
It is a well-known fact that, from the necessities of the war, or the delinquencies of the several States, Congress were not enabled to comply with their engagements to the army, which, after a glorious and successful struggle for their country, much suffering, exemplary patience, and signal desert, they were compelled, by the irresistible dictates of an empty treasury and a ruined credit, to disband, after having given strong indications of their discontent and resentment of the public neglect. A large part of the army suffer themselves to be patiently dismissed; a particular corps of four or five hundred men, stationed in the place where Congress reside, refuse to accept their discharges but on certain specified conditions.
They even go further, and, stimulated by their injuries, or encouraged and misled by designing persons, are emboldened to send a threatening message to Congress, declaring to them that unless they would do them justice immediately they would find means of redress for themselves. Measures are indirectly taken to appease this disorder and give the discontented soldiers as much satisfaction as the situation of things will permit. Shortly after, accounts are received that another corps, at ——— miles’ distance, have also mutinied, and that a part of them, to the number of about eighty men, are on their march to join those who had already discovered so refractory a disposition. A committee of Congress is immediately appointed to confer with the executive of the State on the measures proper to be pursued in this exigency. That committee in the first instance suggest to the Council the expedience of calling out a body of militia, to intercept the detachment of mutineers on its march and represent the danger of the progress of the spirit of mutiny and of future outrages should those on their march be suffered without molestation, to join a more numerous corps in the same temper with themselves.
The Council urge a variety of difficulties: the shortness of the time to collect the militia before the mutineers would arrive, the reluctance with which the citizens would obey a call against men whom they consider as meritorious, and injured, and the like. The committee perceiving the unwillingness of the Council to employ the militia, desist from pressing, and recur to expedients. The day after, the mutineers march in triumph into the city, and unite themselves with those who are already there; and the following day, the whole body assemble in arms, throw off all obedience to their officers, and, in open defiance of government, march to the place which is the usual seat of Congress and the Council of the State, while both are actually sitting; surround it with guards, and send a message to the Council, demanding authority to appoint, themselves, officers to command them, with absolute discretion to take such measures as those officers should think proper to redress their grievances, accompanied with a threat that, if there was not a compliance in twenty minutes, they would let in an injured soldiery upon them, and abide the consequence.
The members of Congress who were at the time assembled, request General St. Clair, who happened to be present, to take such measures as he should judge expedient, without committing the honor of government, to divert the storm, and induce the troops to return to their quarters without perpetrating acts of violence. General St. Clair, in concert with the Council, grants the mutineers permission to elect, out of officers then or formerly in commission, such as they should confide in, to represent their grievances to the Council, with a promise that the Council would confer with the persons elected for that purpose. Having obtained this promise, the mutineers return to their quarters, in military parade, and continue in open defiance of government.
The concession made was a happy compromise between an attention to dignity and a prudent regard to safety.
Men who had dared to carry their insolence to such an extreme, and who saw no opposition to their outrages, were not to be expected to retreat without an appearance, at least, of gratifying their demands. The slightest accident were sufficient -to prompt men in such a temper and situation to tragical excesses.
But however it might become the delicacy of government not to depart from the promise it had given, it was its duty to provide effectually against a repetition of such outrages, and to put itself in a situation to give, instead of receiving, the law, and to manifest that its compliance was not the effect of necessity, but of choice.
This was not to be considered as the disorderly riot of an unarmed mob, but as the deliberate mutiny of an incensed soldiery, carried to the utmost point of outrage short of assassination. The licentiousness of an army is to be dreaded in every government, but in a republic it is more particularly to be restrained; and when directed against the civil authority, to be checked with energy and punished with severity. The merits and sufferings of the troops might be a proper motive for mitigating punishment, when it was in the power of the gov ermnent to inflict it; but it was no reason for relaxing in the measures necessary to put itself in that situation. Its authority was first to be vindicated, and then its clemency to be displayed.
The rights of government are as essential to be defended as the rights of individuals. The security of the one is inseparable from that of the other. And, indeed, in every new government, especially of the popular kind, the great danger is that public authority will not be sufficiently respected.
But upon this occasion there were more particular reasons for decision.
Congress knew there were within two or three days’ march of the city a more considerable body of the same corps, part of which.’-, had mutinied and come to town, and had been the chief actors in the late disorder; that those men had with difficulty been kept, by the exertions of their officers, from joining the insurgents in the first instance; that there was another corps in their neighborhood which, a little time before, had also discovered symptoms of mutiny; that a considerable part of the same line which were in mutiny in town was every moment expected to arrive from the southward, and there was the greatest reason to conclude would be infected with the same spirit on their arrival, as had presently happened in the case of a small detachment which had joined a few days before; that there were besides large numbers of disbanded soldiers scattered, through the country, in want, and who had not yet had time to settle down to any occupation, and exchange their military for private habits; that some of these were really coming in and adding themselves to the revolters; that an extensive accession of strength might be gained from these different quarters, and that there were all the sympathies of like common wrongs, distresses, and resentments to bring them together and to unite them in one cause. The partial success of those who had already made an experiment would be a strong encouragement to others, the rather as the whole line had formerly mutinied, not only with impunity, but with advantage to themselves.
In this state of things, decision was most compatible with the safety of the community, as well as the dignity of government. Though no general convulsion might be to be apprehended, serious mischiefs might attend the progress of the disorder. Indeed it would have been meanness to have negotiated and temporized with an armed banditti of four or five hundred men, who, in any other situation than surrounding a defenceless senate, could only become formidable by being feared. This was not an insurrection of a whole people; it was not an army, with their officers at their head, demanding the justice of their country—either of which might have made caution and concession respectable; it was a handful of mutinous soldiers, whohad equallyviolated the laws of discipline and rights of public authority.
Congress therefore wisely resolve that “it is necessary that effectual measures be immediately taken for supporting the public authority,” and call upon the State in which they reside for assistance of its militia, at the same time that they send orders for the march of a body of regular forces as an eventual resource.
There was a propriety in calling for the aid of the militia, in the first place, for different reasons. Civil government may always, with more peculiar propriety, resort to the aid of the citizens to repel military insults or encroachments.
’t is there, it ought to be supposed, where it may seek its surest dependence, especially in a democracy which is the creature of the people. The citizens of each State are, in an aggregate light, the citizens of the United States, and bound as much to support the representatives of the whole as their own immediate representatives. The insult was not to Congress personally; it was to the government, to public authority in general, and was very properly put upon that footing. The regular forces which Congress could command were at a great distance, and could not, but in a length of time, be brought to effectuate their purpose. The disorder continued to exist on the spot where they were, was likely to increase by delay, and might be productive of sudden and mischievous effects by being neglected.
The city and the bank were in immediate danger of being rifled, and perhaps of suffering other calamities. The citizens, therefore, were the proper persons to make the first exertion.
The objection that these were not the objects of the care of Congress, can only serve to mislead the vulgar. The peace and safety of the place which was the immediate residence of Congress, endangered, too, by the troops, of the United States, demanded their, interposition. The President of the State of Pennsylvania was himself of this opinion, having declared to a member of that body, that, as their troops were the offenders, it was proper for them to declare the necessity of calling out the militia, as a previous step to its being done.
Nor is there more weight in the supposition that the danger was inconsiderable, and that, from the pacific appearances of the troops, it was to be expected the disorder would subside of itself. The facts were, that the troops still continued in a state of mutiny, had made no submissions nor offered any, and that they effected to negotiate with their arms in their hands.
A band of mutinous soldiers in such a situation, uncontrolled, and elated with their own power, was not to be trusted.
The most sudden vicissitudes and contradictory changes were to be expected, and a fit of intoxication was sufficient at any moment, with men who had already gone such length, to make the city a scene of plunder and massacre. It was the height of rashness to leave the city exposed to the bare possibility of such mischiefs.
The only question, in this view, is, whether there was greater danger to the city in attempting their reduction by force, than in endeavoring by palliatives to bring them to a sense of duty? It has been urged, and appeared to have operated strongly upon the minds of the Council, 1 that the soldiers being already embodied, accustomed to arms, and ready to act at a moment’s warning, it would be extremely hazardous to attempt to collect the citizens to subdue them, as the mutineers might have taken advantage of the first confusion incident to the measure to do a great deal of mischief before this militia could have assembled in equal or superior force.
It is not to be denied that a small body of disciplined troops, headed and lead by their officers, with a plan of conduct, could have effected a great deal in similar circumstances; but it is equally certain that nothing can be more contemptible than a body of men used to be commanded and to obey, when deprived of the example and direction of their officers. They are infinitely less to be dreaded than an equal number of men who have never been broken to command, nor exchanged their natural courage for that artificial kind which is the effect of discipline and habit. Soldiers transfer their confidence from themselves to their officers, face danger by the force of example, the dread of punishment, and the sense of necessity. Take away these inducements and leave them to themselves, they are no longer resolute than till they are opposed.
In the present case it was to be relied upon that the appearance of opposition would instantly bring the mutineers to a sense of their insignificance and to submission. Conscious of their weakness from the smallness of their numbers, in a populous city and in the midst of a populous country, awed by the consequences of resisting government by arms, and confounded by the want of proper leaders and proper direction, the common soldiers would have thought of nothing but making their peace by the sacrifice of those who had been the authors of their misconduct.
The idea, therefore, of coercion was the safest and most prudent, for more was to be apprehended from leaving them to their own passions than from attempting to control them by force. It will be seen, by and by, how far the events, justly appreciated, correspond with this reasoning.
Congress were not only right in adopting measures of coercion, but they were also right in resolving to change their situation if proper exertions were not made by the particular government and citizens of the place where they resided. The want of such exertions would evince some defect, no matter where, that would prove they ought to have no confidence in their situation. They were, to all intents and purposes, in the power of a lawless, armed banditti, enraged, whether justly or not, against them. However they might have had a right to expose their own persons to insult and outrage, they had no right to expose the character of representatives, or the dignity of the States they represented, or of the Union. It was plain they could not with propriety, in such a state of things, proceed in their deliberations where they were, and it was right they should repair to a place where they could do it. It was far from impossible that the mutineers might have been induced to seize their persons as hostages for their own security, as well as with a hope of extorting concessions. Had such an event taken place the whole country would have exclaimed: Why did not Congress withdraw from a place where they found they could not be assured of support; where the government was so feeble, or the citizens so indisposed, as to suffer three or four hundred mutinous soldiers to violate, with impunity, the authority of the United States and of their own State?
When they resolved to depart, on the want of adequate exertions, they had reason to doubt their being made, from the disinclination shown by the Council to call out the militia in the first instance; and when they did actually depart they were informed by the Council that the efforts of the citizens were not to be looked for, even from a repetition of the outrage which had already happened, and it was to be doubted what measure of outrage would produce them. They had also convincing proof that the mutiny was more serious than it had even at first appeared, by the participation of some of the officers.
To throw the blame of harshness and precipitancy upon Congress, it is said that their dignity was only accidentally and undesignedly offended. Much stress has been laid upon the message from the soldiery being directed to the Council, and not to them. All this, however, is very immaterial to the real merits of the question. Whatever might have been the first intention of the mutineers in this particular act, whether it proceeded from artifice or confusion of ideas, the indignity to Congress was the same. They knew that Congress customarily held their deliberations at the State House; and if it even be admitted that they knew Saturday to be a day of usual recess, which, perhaps, is not altogether probable, when they came to the place they saw and knew Congress to be assembled there. They did not desist in consequence of this, but proceeded to station their guards and execute their purposes. Members of Congress went out to them, remonstrated with them, represented the danger of their proceedings to themselves, and desired them to withdraw.; but they persisted till they obtained what they supposed a part of their object. A majority of the same persons had, some days before, sent a message, almost equally exceptionable, to Congress; and at the time they scarcely spoke of any other body than Congress, who, indeed, may naturally be supposed to have been the main object of their resentments: for Congress, having always appeared to the soldiery to be the body who contracted with them, and who had broken faith with them, it is not to be supposed they were capable of investigating the remote causes of the failures, so as to transfer the odium from Congress to the State.
But the substantial thing to be considered in this question is the violation of public authority. It cannot be disputed that the mutiny of troops is a violation of that authority to which they owe obedience. This was, in the present case, aggravated to a high degree of atrociousness by the gross insult to the government, of Pennsylvania, in the face of Congress and in defiance of their displeasure. It was further aggravated by continuing in that condition for a series of time.
The reasons have been assigned that made it incumbent upon Congress to interpose; and when they called upon the State of Pennsylvania, not only to vindicate its own rights, but to support their authority, the declining a compliance was a breach of the Confederation and of the duty which the State of Pennsylvania owed to the United States. The best apology for the government of Pennsylvania, in this case, is that they could not command the services of their citizens. But so improper a disposition in the citizens, if admitted, must operate as an additional justification to Congress in their removal.
The subsequent events, justly appreciated, illustrate the propriety of their conduct. The mutineers did not make voluntary submissions in consequence of negotiation, persuasion, or conviction. They did not submit till after Congress had left the city, publishing their intentions of coercion; till after there had been an actual call upon the militia; till their leaders and instigators, alarmed by the approach of force and the fear of being betrayed by the men, fled. They were reduced by coercion, not overcome by mildness.
It appears, too, that while they were professing repentance and a return to their duty, they were tampering with the troops at Yorktown and Lancaster to increase their strength, and that two officers, at least, were concerned in the mutiny, who, by their letters since, have confessed that some project of importance was in contemplation.
The call for the militia was made the day after it had been pronounced ineligible by the Council. There could have been little change in that time, either in the temper or preparations of the citizens. The truth is, that the departure of Congress brought the matter to a crisis, and that the Council were compelled by necessity to do what they ought to have done before through choice.
It is to be lamented they did not, by an earlier decision, prevent the necessity of Congress taking a step which may have many disagreeable consequences. They then would ***
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to james madison, jr.
June 29, 1783
I am informed that among other disagreeable things said about the removal of Congress from Philadelphia, it is insinuated that it was a contrivance of some members to get them out of the State of Pennsylvania into one of those to which they belonged; and I am told that this insinuation has been pointed at me in particular.
Though I am persuaded that all disinterested persons will justify Congress in quitting a place where they were told they were not to expect support (for the conduct of the Council amounted to that), yet I am unwilling to be held up as having had an extraordinary agency in the measure for interested purposes when the fact is directly the reverse. As you were a witness to my conduct and opinions through the whole of the transaction, I am induced to trouble you for your testimony upon this occasion. I do not mean to make a public use of it, but, through my friends, to vindicate myself from the imputations I have mentioned.
I will therefore request your answers to the following questions
Did that part of the resolutions which related to the removal of Congress originate with me or not?
Did I, as a member of the committee, appear to press the departure, or did I not rather manifest a strong disposition to postpone that event as long as possible, even against the general current of opinion?
I wish you to be as particular and full in your answer as your memory will permit. I think you will recollect that my idea was clearly this: That the mutiny ought not to be terminated by negociation; that Congress were justifiable in leaving a place where they did not receive the support which they had a right to expect, but, as their removal was a measure of a critical and delicate nature, might have an ill appearance in Europe, and might, from events, be susceptible of an unfavorable interpretation in this country, it was prudent to delay it till its necessity became apparent; not only till it was manifest there would be no change in the spirit which seemed to actuate the Council, but till it was evident complete submission was not to be expected from the troops; that to give full time for this it would be proper to delay the departure of Congress till the latest period which would be compatible with the idea of meeting at Trenton or Princeton on Thursday—perhaps even till Thursday morning.[Back to Table of Contents]
to james madison, jr.
July 6, 1783.
On my arrival in this city I am more convinced than I was of the necessity of giving a just state of fact to the public. The current runs strongly against Congress, and in a great measure for want of informa tion. When facts are explained they make an impression, and incline to conclusions more favorable to us.
I have no copy of the reports in my possession, which puts it out of my power to publish them. Will you procure and send me one without loss of time? Without appearing, I intend to give them to the public with some additional explanations. This done with moderation will, no doubt, have a good effect.
The prevailing idea is, that the actors in the removal of Congress were influenced by the desire of getting them out of the city, and the generality of the remainder by timidity—some say passion. Few give a more favorable interpretation.
I will thank you in your letter to me to answer the following question:
What appeared to be my ideas and disposition respecting the removal of Congress? Did I appear to wish to hasten it, or did I not rather show a strong disposition to procrastinate it?
I will be obliged to you in answering this question to do it fully. I do not intend to make any public use of it, but through my friends to vindicate myself from the insinuation I have mentioned, and in that to confute the supposition that the motive assigned did actuate the members on whom it fell to be more particularly active.[Back to Table of Contents]
to mrs. hamilton
July 22, 1783.
I wrote you, my beloved Eliza, by the last post, which I hope will not meet with the fate that many others of my letters must have met with. I count upon setting out to see you in four days, but I have been so frequently disappointed byunforeseen events, that I shall not be without apprehensions of being detained, till I have begun my journey. The members of Congress are very pressing with me not to go away at this time, as the House is thin, and as the definitive treaty is momently expected.
Tell your father that Mr. Rivington, 1 in a letter to the South Carolina delegates, has given information, coming to him from Admiral Arbuthnot, that the Mercury frigate is arrived at New York with the definitive treaty, and that the city was to be evacuated yesterday by the treaty.
I am strongly urged to stay a few days for the ratification of the treaty; at all events, however, I will not be long absent.
I give you joy of the happy conclusion of this important work in which your country has been engaged. Now, in a very short time, I hope we shall be happily settled in New York.
My love to your father. Kiss my boy a thousand times.[Back to Table of Contents]
to john jay
July 25, 1783.
Though I have not performed my promise of writing to you which I made you when you left this country, yet I have not the less interested myself in your welfare and success. I have been witness with pleasure to every event which has had a tendency to advance you in the esteem of your country, and I may assure you with sincerity that it is as high as you could possibly wish. All have united in the warmest approbation of your conduct. I cannot forbear telling you this, because my situation has given me access to the truth, and I gratify my friendship for you in communicating what cannot fail to gratify your sensibility.
The peace, which exceeds in the goodness of its terms the expectations of the most sanguine, does the highest honor to those who made it. It is the more agreeable, as the time was come when thinking men began to be seriously alarmed at the internal embarrassments and exhausted state of this country. The New England people talk of making you an annual fish-offering, as an acknowledgment of your exertions for the participation of the fisheries. We have now happily concluded the great work of independence, but much remains to be done to reap the fruits of it. Our prospects are not flattering. Every day proves the inefficiency of the present Confederation; yet the common danger being removed, we are receding instead of advancing in a disposition to amend its defects. The road to popularity in each State is to inspire jealousies of the power of Congress, though nothing can be more apparent than that they have no power; and that for the want of it, the resources of the country during the war could not be drawn out, and we at this moment experience all the mischiefs of a bankrupt and ruined credit. It is to be hoped that when prejudice and folly have run themselves out of breath, we may return to reason and correct our errors. After having served in the field during the war, I have been making a short apprenticeship in Congress, but the evacuation of New York approaching, I am preparing to take leave of public life, to enter into the practice of the law. Your country will continue to demand your services abroad. I beg you to present me most respectfully to Mrs. Jay, and to be assured, etc.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to governor clinton
July 27, 1783.
A few days since I was honored with your Excellency’s letter of the———; and was glad to find your ideas on the subject corresponded with mine.
As I shall, in a day or two, take leave of Congress, I think it my duty to give my opinion to the Legislature on a matter of importance to the State, which has been long depending, and is still without a prospect of termination in the train in which it has been placed. I mean the affair of the Grants. 2 It is hazardous to pass a positive judgment on what will happen in a body so mutable as that of Congress; but, from all I have seen, I have come to a settled opinion that no determination will be taken and executed by them in any other manner than in that prescribed by the Confederation. There is always such a diversity of views and interests, so many compromises to be made between different States, that, in a question of this nature, the embarrassments of which have been increased by the steps that have preceded, and in which the passions of the opposite sides have taken a warm part, decision must be the result of necessity. While Congress have a discretion, they will procrastinate; when they are bound by the Constitution, they must proceed.
It is therefore my opinion that it will be advisable for the Legislature, when they meet, to review the question, and either to relinquish their pretensions to the country in dispute, or to instruct their delegates, if a decision is not had within a limited time, to declare the submission to Congress revoked, and to institute a claim according to the principles of the Confederation.
It would be out of my province to discuss which side of the alternate ought in policy to prevail, but I will take the liberty to observe, that if the last should be preferred, it would be expedient to remove every motive of opposition from private claims, not only by confirming in their full latitude, previous to the trial, the possessions of the original settlers, but even the grants of the usurped government. It may happen that it will be eventually necessary to employ force, and in this case it would be of great importance that neither the inhabitants of the Grants, nor powerful individuals in other States, should find their private interest in contradiction to that of the State. This has already had great influence in counteracting our wishes, would continue to throw impediments in the way of ulterior measures, and might at last kindle a serious flame between the States.
I communicated to your Excellency, in a former letter, that I had declined pressing the application of the Legislature to Congress respecting the State troops for garrisoning the frontier posts, because temporary provision had been made in another way which would save the State the immediate expense, and because there was a prospect of some general provision for the defence of the frontiers on a Continental establishment, which was to be preferred on every account. A report for this purpose is now before Congress, but the thinness of representation has for some time retarded, and still retards, its consideration.
The definitive treaty is not yet arrived, but from accounts which, though not official, appear to deserve credit, it may be daily expected. A gentleman known and confided in, has arrived at Philadelphia, who informs that he saw a letter from Dr. Franklin to Mr. Barkeley, telling him that the definitive treaties were signed the 27th of May between all the parties; that New York was to be evacuated in six months from the ratification of the preliminaries in Europe, which will be the 12th or 15th of next month.
As it is not my intention to return to Congress, I take this opportunity to make my respectful acknowledgements to the Legislature for the honorable mark of their confidence conferred upon me by having chosen me to represent the State in that body. I shall be happy if my conduct has been agreeable to them.[Back to Table of Contents]
September 30, 1783.
As I flatter myself I may indulge a consciousness that my services have been of some value to the public, at least enough to merit the small compensation I wish, I will make no apology to your Excellency for conveying, through you, that wish to Congress. You are able to inform them, if they wish information, in what degree I may have been useful; and I have entire confidence that you will do me justice.
In a letter which I wrote to you several months ago, I intimated that it might be in your power to contribute to the establishment of our Federal Union upon a more solid basis. I have never since explained myself. At the time, I was in hopes Congress might have been induced to take a decisive ground; to inform their constituents of the imperfections of the present system, and of the impossibility of conducting the public affairs, with honor to themselves and advantage to the community, with powers so disproportioned to their responsibility; and, having done this, in a full and forcible manner, to adjourn the moment the definitive treaty was ratified. In retiring at the same juncture, I wished you, in a solemn manner, to declare to the people your intended retreat from public concerns, your opinion of the present government, and of the absolute necessity of a change.
Before I left Congress I despaired of the first, and your circular-letter to the States had anticipated the last. I trust it will not be without effect, though I am persuaded it would have had more, combined with what I have mentioned. At all events, without compliment, sir, it will do you honor with the sensible and well-meaning; and, ultimately, it is to be hoped, with the people at large, when the present epidemic frenzy has subsided.
Mrs. Hamilton presents her compliments to Mrs. Washington.
I beg the favor of your Excellency to forward the enclosed to General Greene.[Back to Table of Contents]
September 30, 1783.
I think I may address the subject of this letter to your Excellency with more propriety than to any other person, as it is purely of a military nature, as you are best acquainted with my services as an officer, and as you are now engaged in assisting to form the arrangements for the future peace establishment.
Your Excellency knows that in March, ’82, I relinquished all claim to any future compensation for my services, either during the residue of the war, or after its conclusion—simply retaining my rank. On this foundation I build a hope that I may be permitted to preserve my rank, on the peace establishment, without emoluments and unattached to any corps—as an honorary reward for the time I have devoted to the public. As I may hereafter travel, I may find it an agreeable circumstance to appear in the character I have supported in the Revolution.
I rest my claim solely on the sacrifice I have made, because I have no reason to believe that my services have appeared of any value to Congress, as they declined giving them any marks of their notice, on an occasion which appeared to my friends to entitle me to it, as well by the common practice of sovereigns as by the particular practice of this country in repeated instances.
Your Excellency will recollect that it was my lot at York Town to command, as senior officer, a successful attack upon one of the enemy’s redoubts; that the officer who acted in a similar capacity in another attack, made at the same time, by the French troops, has been handsomely distinguished in consequence of it by the government to which he belongs; and that there are several examples among us where Congress have bestowed honors upon actions, perhaps not more useful, nor apparently more hazardous.
These observations are inapplicable to the present Congress, further than as they may possibly furnish an additional motive to a compliance with my wish.
The only thing I ask of your Excellency is, that my application may come into view in the course of the consultations on the peace establishment.[Back to Table of Contents]
to governor clinton
October 3, 1783.
I have lately received, from Messrs. Duane and L‘Hommedieu, an extract of a letter from your Excellency to the delegates, of the 23d of August last, requesting “a particular detail of the motives which influenced the determination of Congress” respecting the application of the Legislature to have their State troops released from Continental pay, for the purpose of garrisoning the frontier posts.
In my letters to your Excellency of the first of June and twenty-seventh of July, which were intended to be official, I summarily informed you that Congress had made temporary provision for garrisoning the frontier posts, and that a plan was under deliberation relative to a peace establishment, which would, of course, embrace that object permanently; that such temporary provision being made at the common expense, and a general plan being under consideration for the future, I had declined pressing a compliance with the application of the Legislature; conceiving it to be more for the interest of the State that the expense should be jointly borne, than that it should fall exclusively upon itself.
I did not enter into a more full detail upon the subject, because the business continued, to the time I left Congress, in an undecided state, and it was impossible to judge what views would finally prevail.
The concurrent resolutions of the two Houses had been, immediately on their receipt, referred to a committee appointed to report on a peace establishment, who had suspended their report on these resolutions until it should appear what would be the fate of a general plan which had been submitted.
As to the motives that influenced Congress in making the provision they did make, rather than immediately assenting to the application of the State, as far as I was able to collect them, they were these: The opinions of many were unsettled as to the most eligible mode of providing for the security of the frontiers consistent with the Constitution, as well with respect to the general policy of the Union, as to considerations of justice to those States whose frontiers were more immediately exposed. A considerable part of the House appeared to think, from reasons of a very cogent nature; that the well-being of the Union required a federal provision for the security of the different parts, and that it would be a great hardship to individual States peculiarly circumstanced to throw the whole burthen of expense upon them by recurring to separate provisions in a matter, the benefit of which would be immediately shared by their neighbors, and ultimately by the Union at large; that indeed it was not probable particular States would be either able or, upon experiment, willing to make competent provision at their separate expense, and that the principle might eventually excite jealousies between the States unfriendly to the common tranquillity.
I freely confess I was one who held this opinion.
Questions naturally arose as to the true construction of the articles of Confederation upon this head; questions as delicate, as interesting, and as difficult of solution.
On one hand it was doubted whether Congress were authorized by the Confederation to proceed upon the idea of a federal provision; on the other, it was perceived that such a contrary construction would be dangerous to the Union, including, among other inconveniences, this consequence, that the United States, in Congress, cannot raise a single regiment, nor equip a single ship, for the general defence, till after the declaration of war, or an actual commencement of hostilities.
In this dilemma, on an important constitutional question, other urgent matters depending before Congress, and the advanced season requiring a determination upon the mode of securing the Western posts in case of a surrender this fall, all sides of the House concurred in making a temporary provision, in the manner which has been communicated.
My apprehension of the views of the Legislature was simply this: That, looking forward to a surrender of the posts, and conceiving, from some expressions in the articles of Confederation, that separate provision was to be made for the frontier garrisons, they had thought it expedient to apply the troops already on foot to that purpose, and to propose to Congress to give their sanction to it.
Under this apprehension, reflecting besides, that those troops were engaged only for a short period, upon a very improper establishment to continue, on account of the enormous pay to the private men, and that the expense which is now shared by all, and which would have fallen solely upon the State had the application been complied with, would probably be at the rate of nearly eighty thousand dollars per annum, a considerable sum for the State in its present situation—I acknowledge to your Excellency that I saw with pleasure, rather than regret, the turn which the affair took. I shall be sorry, however, if it has contravened the intentions of the Legislature.
I will take the liberty to add upon this occasion that it has always appeared to me of great importance, to this State in particular as well as to the Union in general, that Federal rather than State provision should be made for the defence of every part of the Confederacy, in peace as well as in war.
Without entering into arguments of general policy, it will be sufficient to observe that this State is in all respects critically situated.
Its relative position, shape, and intersections, viewed on the map, strongly speak this language Strengthen the Confederation; give it exclusively the power of the sword; let each State have no forces but its militia.
As a question of mere economy, the following considerations deserve great weight:
The North River facilitates attacks by sea and by land; and, besides the frontier forts, all military men are of opinion that a strong post should be maintained at West Point, or some other position on the lower part of the river.
If Canada is well governed, it may become well peopled, and by inhabitants attached to its government. The British nation, while it preserves the idea of retaining possession of that country, may be expected to keep on foot there a large force. The position of that force, either for defence or offence, will necessarily be such as will afford a prompt and easy access to us.
Our precautions for defence must be proportioned to their means of annoying us, and we may hereafter find it indispensable to increase our frontier garrisons.
The present charge of a competent force in that quarter, thrown additionally into the scale of those contributions which we must make to the payment of the public debt and to other objects of general expense if the Union lasts, would, I fear, enlarge our burden beyond our ability: that charge, hereafter increased as it may be, would be oppressively felt by the people. It includes not only the expense of paying and subsisting the necessary number of troops, but of keeping the fortifications in repair, probably of erecting others, and of furnishing the requisite supplies of military stores. I say nothing of the Indian nations, because, though it will be always prudent to be upon our guard against them, yet I am of opinion we diminish the necessity of it by making them our friends; and I take it for granted there cannot be a serious doubt anywhere as to the obvious policy of endeavoring to do it. Their friendship alone can keep our frontiers in peace. It is essential to the improvement of the fur trade; an object of immense importance to the State. The attempt at the total expulsion of so desultory a people is as chimerical as it would be pernicious. War with them is as expensive as it is destructive. It has not a single object, for the acquisition of their lands is not to be wished till those now vacant are settled; and the surest, as well as the most just and humane way of removing them, is by extending our settlements to their neighborhood.
Indeed, it is not impossible they may be already willing to exchange their former possessions for others more remote.
The foregoing considerations would lose all force if we had full security that the rest of the world would make our safety and prosperity the first object of their reverence and care; but an expectation of this kind would be too much against the ordinary course of human affairs—too visionary to be a rule for national conduct.
It is true our situation secures us from conquest, if internal dissensions do not open the way; but when nations now make war upon each other, the object seldom is total conquest—partial acquisitions, the jealousy of power, the rivalship of dominion or of commerce, sometimes national emulation and antipathy, are the motives.
Nothing shelters us from the operation of either of these causes. The fisheries, the fur trade, the navigation of the lakes and of the Mississippi, the Western territory, the islands of the West Indies, with reference to traffic,—in short, the passions of human nature, are abundant sources of contention and hostility.
I will not trespass further on your Excellency’s patience. I expected indeed that my last letter would have finished my official communications, but Messrs. Duane and L‘Hommedieu having transmitted the extract of your letter to Mr. Floyd and myself, in order that we might comply with what your Excellency thought would be expected by the Legislature, it became my duty to give this explanation. Mr. Floyd having been at Congress but a little time after the concurrent resolutions arrived, and being now at a great distance from me, occasions a separate communication.
N. B.—I did not at the time enclose the resolution directing the General to provide for garrisoning the frontier posts, because I understood it would in course be transmitted to you by the President or the Secretary at War.[Back to Table of Contents]
to the honorable thomas mifflin, president of congress
- New York,
Dec. 8, 1783.
Being concerned as counsel for a number of persons who have been, since the annunciation of the provisional treaty, indicted under the confiscation laws of this State for the part they are supposed to have taken in the late war, we are induced, at the desire of our clients and in their behalf, to apply to Congress, through your Excellency, for an exemplification of the definitive treaty. We take it for granted that ere this it will have been [done under the] direction of the United States. We have found a great strictness in the courts in this State. It will, we apprehend, be necessary to be able to produce an exemplification of the treaty under the seal of the United States. In a matter so interesting to a great number of individuals—for it does not belong to us to urge considerations of national honor,—we hope we shall be excused when we observe that there appears to be no probability that the Legislature of this State will interpose its authority to put a stop to prosecutions till the definitive treaty is announced in form. In the mean time a period is limited for the appearance of the indicted persons to plead to their indictments, and if they neglect to appear, judgment by default will be entered against them. It is therefore of great consequence to them that we should have in our possession as speedily as possible an authentic document of the treaty and of its ratification by Congress; and we, on this account, pray an exemplification of both.
We persuade ourselves that the justice and liberality of Congress will induce a ready compliance with our prayer, which will conduce to the security of a great number of individuals who derive their hopes of safety from the national faith.[Back to Table of Contents]
to john barker church 1
- New York,
March 10, 1784.
My Dear Sir:
In my last to you I informed you that a project for a land bank had been set on foot by Mr. Sayre as the ostensible parent, but I had reason to suspect the Chancellor 2 was the true father. The fact has turned out as I supposed, and the Chancellor, with a number of others, has since petitioned the Legislature for an exclusive charter for the proposed bank. I thought it necessary not only with a view to your project, but for the sake of the commercial interests of the State, to start an opposition to this scheme and took occasion to point out its absurdity and inconvenience to some of the most intelligent merchants, who presently saw the matter in a proper light and began to take measures to defeat the plan.
The Chancellor had taken so much pains with the country members that they all began to be persuaded that the land bank was the true philosopher’s stone that was to turn all their rocks and trees into gold, and there was great reason to apprehend a majority of the Legislature would have adopted his views. It became necessary to convince the projectors themselves of the impracticability of their scheme, and to counteract the impressions they had made by a direct application to the Legislature. Some of the merchants, to effect these purposes, set on foot a subscription for a money bank, and called upon me to subscribe. I was a little embarrassed how to act, but upon the whole I concluded it best to fall in with them, and endeavor to induce them to put the business upon such a footing as might enable you with advantage to combine your interests with theirs; for since the thing had been taken up upon the broad footing of the whole body of the merchants, it appeared to me that it never would be your interest to pursue a distinct project in opposition to theirs, but that you would prefer, so far as you might choose to employ money in this way, to become purchasers in the general bank. The object, on this supposition, was to have the bank founded on such principles as would give you a proper weight in the direction. Unluckily for this purpose I entered rather late into the measure. Proposals had been agreed upon, in which, among other things, it was settled that no stockholder, to whatever amount, should have more than seven votes, which was the number to which a holder of ten shares was to be entitled. At an after meeting of some of the most influential characters, I engaged them so far to depart from this ground as to allow a vote for every five shares above ten.
The stockholders have since thought proper to appoint me one of the directors. 1 I shall hold it till Wadsworth and you come out, and if you choose to become partners in this bank I shall make a vacancy for one of you. I inclose you the constitution and the names of the president, directors, and cashier.
An application for a charter has been made to the Legislature, with a petition against granting an exclusive one to the land bank. The measures which have been taken appear to have had their effect upon the minds of the partisans of the land bank.
The affairs of the bank in Pennsylvania appear to be in some confusion. They have stopped discounts; but I have no apprehension that there is any thing more in the matter than temporary embarrassment, from having a little overshot their mark in their issues of paper, and from the opposition which the attempt to establish a new bank had produced.
I have had no tolerable offer for your land in Connecticut,—forty shillings, and that currency, per acre has been the highest, but I have written to Mr. Campfield, requesting him to inform himself well of the value of the land, and if he thinks it is not worth more, to accept the offer. I am told he is a judicious and honest man; and I presume the land where it is will never be worth any thing to you if it remains unsold. Betsy joins me in best affections to Mrs. C. and yourself.[Back to Table of Contents]
to thomas fitzsimmons 1
- New York,
March 21, 1784.
Permit me to introduce to your acquaintance and attention Mr. Seton, Cashier of the Bank of New York. He is just setting out for Philadelphia to procure materials and information in the forms of business. I recommend him to you, because I am persuaded you will with pleasure facilitate his object. Personally, I dare say you will be pleased with him.
He will tell you of our embarrassments and prospects. I hope an incorporation of the two banks, which is evidently the interest of both, has put an end to differences in Philadelphia. Here a wild and impracticable scheme of a land bank stands in our way; the projectors of it persevering in spite of the experience they have, that all the mercantile and moneyed influence is against it.[Back to Table of Contents]
to gouverneur morris
- New York,
March 21, 1784.
I duly received, my dear sir, your letter of the 27th of January, and I would have sooner told you how much pleasure it gave me, if I had had time, but legislative folly has afforded so plentiful a harvest to us lawyers that we have scarcely a moment to spare from the substantial business of reaping. Today being Sunday, I have resolved to give an hour to friendship and to you. Good people would say that I had much better be paying my devotions to the great1
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devotions I mean; for with so lively an imagination as yours it is necessary to be explicit, lest you should be for making a different association that would not suit me quite as well.
To say that I was amused with your letter was to say what must have happened of course; a good theme in good hands could not fail to be amusing. The coalition you mention is not to be wondered at, though in a political light it is whimsical enough; but the meeting of extremes at the same point is a common case. I expect in another year to see our political antipodes in this city shaking hands, but whenever it happens it will not affect me as it seems to have done you in the instance you mention, because probably I shall not have the same reasons.—To be serious:
The erection of a new bank in Philadelphia does not appear to me an evil to the community. The competition may indeed render the large profits of the old bank less permanent, but they will always remain considerable enough; and the competition will cause business to be done on easier and better terms in each, to the advancement of trade in general. If I reason wrong, correct me. That a stockholder of the old bank should feel his interest wounded, that those who have made their property in it subservient in some measure to the support of the Revolution should feel a degree of indignation at the kind of rivalship which has started up, are both natural sensations; but that large profits should produce rivalship, that men in a matter of this kind should employ their money where they expect the greatest advantage and the cheapest market in purchasing1
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second bank has been established, I think you will, on reflection, agree with me that they ought to wish to be interested in both the institutions, and that therefore it is the duty of those who have the laying out of their money to purchase in the new bank, on the principle I have hinted at as well as the circumstances of a lower price. The whole of this business, my dear friend, is a mere mercantile speculation, and I am sure when there has been time to cool down the considerate proprietors of the old bank will blame nobody for adventuring upon mere mercantile prin ciples. To you I need not say that it is chimerical to expect any other will prevail.
Were I to advise upon this occasion, it would be as soon as possible to bring about a marriage or, perhaps what you will prefer, an intrigue between the old bank and the new. Let the latter be the wife or, still to pursue your propensity, the mistress of the former. As a mistress (or, you ’ll say a wife) it is to be expected she will every now and then be capricious and inconstant; but in the main it will be the interest of both husband and wife that they should live well together and manage their affairs with good humor and concert. If they quarrel they will not only expose themselves to the gibes of their neighbors, but the more knowing part of these will endeavor to keep them by the ears in order to make the favors of each more cheap and more easily attainable.
I ought, in return, to give you an account of what we are doing here, but I will, in the lump, tell you that we are doing those things which we ought not to do, and leaving undone those things which we ought to do. Instead of wholesome regulations for the improvement of our polity and commerce, we are laboring to contrive methods to mortify and punish Tories and to explain away treaties.
Let us both erect a temple to time, only regretting that we shall not command a longer portion of it to see what will be the event of the American drama. 1[Back to Table of Contents]
to gouverneur morris
- New York,
April 7, 1784.
Pardon me, my dear sir, for not sooner having obeyed your orders with respect to the enclosed. I part with it reluctantly; for wit is so rare an article, that when we get so much of it in so small a compass we cannot easily consent to be dispossessed of it. I am very happy to hear of the union of your two banks, for you will believe me when I tell that on more deliberate consideration I was led to view the competition in a different light from that in which it at first struck me. I had no doubt that it was against the interests of the proprietors, but on a superficial view I perceived benefits to the community, which on a more close inspection I found were not real.
You will call our proceedings here strange doings. If some folks were paid to counteract the prosperity of the State, they could not take more effectual measures than they do. But it is in vain to attempt to kick against the pricks.
Discrimination bills, partial taxes, schemes to engross public property in the hands of those who have present power, to banish the real wealth of the State, and to substitute paper bubbles, are the only dishes that suit the public palate at this time.
Permit me to ask your opinion on a point of importance to the New York Bank—the best mode of receiving and paying out gold. I am aware of the evils of that which has been practised upon in Philadelphia—weighing in quantities—but I cannot satisfy myself about a substitute, unless there could be a coinage.
Favor me with your sentiments on this subject as soon as you can.[Back to Table of Contents]
to de chastellux 1
- New York,
June 14, 1784.
Monsieur Le Chevalier:
Colonel Clarkson, 2 who will have the honor of delivering you this, being already known to you, I give him this letter more for the sake of renewing to you the assurances of my attachment and esteem, than from a supposition that he will stand in need of any new title to your attention. I will therefore only say of him that his excellent qualities cannot be known without interesting those to whom they are known, and that from a personal and warm regard for him, I should be happy, if any thing I could say, could be an additional motive for your countenance and civilities to him.
I speak of him in the light of a friend. As a messenger of science, he cannot fail to acquire the patronage of one of her favorite ministers. He combines with the views of private satisfaction, which a voyage to Europe cannot but afford, an undertaking for the benefit of a seminary of learning, lately instituted in this State.
Learning is the common concern of mankind; and why may not poor republicans, who can do little more than wish her well, send abroad to solicit the favor of her patrons and friends? Her ambassador will tell you his errand. I leave it to your mistress to command and to the trustees of the institution to ask your permission in promoting his mission.
Permit me only to add that if there is any thing in this country by which I can contribute to your satisfaction, nothing will make me happier at all times than that your commands may enable me to give you proofs of the respectful and affectionate attachment with which, etc.[Back to Table of Contents]
to his brother, james hamilton—st. thomas
- New York,
June 23, 1785.
My Dear Brother:
I have received your letter of the 31st of May last, which and one other are the only letters I have received from you in many years. You did not receive one which I wrote to you about six months ago. The situation you describe yourself to be in gives me much pain, and nothing will make me happier than, as far as may be in my power, to contribute to your relief. I will cheerfully pay your draft upon me for fifty pounds sterling whenever it shall appear. I wish it was in my power to desire you to enlarge the sum; but, though my future prospects are of the most flattering kind, my present engagements would render it inconvenient to me to advance a larger sum. My affection for you, however, will not permit me to be inattentive to your welfare, and I hope time will prove to you that I feel all the sentiments of a brother. Let me only to request of you to exert your industry for a year or two more where you are, and at the end of that time I promise myself to be able to invite you to a more comfortable settlement in this country. But what has become of our dear father? It is an age since I have heard from him, or of him, though I have written him several letters. Perhaps, alas, he is no more, and I shall not have the pleasing opportunity of contributing to render the close of his life more happy than the progress of it. My heart bleeds at the recollection of his misfortunes and embarrassments. Sometimes I flatter myself his brothers have extended their support to him, and that he now enjoys tranquillity and ease. At other times I fear he is suffering in indigence. Should he be alive, inform him of my inquiries; beg him to write to me, and tell him how ready I shall be to devote myself and all I have to his accommodation and happiness. I do not advise your coming to this country at present, for the war has also put things out of order here, and people in your business find a subsistence difficult enough. My object will be, by and by, to get you settled on a farm.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to israel wilkes2
November 8, 1785.
The message which you sent me yesterday, and your letter today, were conceived in terms to which I am little accustomed. Where I to consult my feelings only upon the occasion, I should return an answer very different from that which I have, in justice to my own conduct, resolved upon. But in whatever ever light we are to view each other hereafter, and however harsh and indelicate I may think the method you have taken to obtain an explanation to be, I shall, for my own part, leave no room to suppose that I intentionally gave you any cause to complain. I shall, therefore, explicitly declare, that whatever inattention may have appeared towards you, was solely owing to the continual hurry in which my engagements, for a long time past, have kept me; and that, so far from its having been occasioned by any designed neglect, it was what, under the circumstances, might have happened to my best friend. Indeed, much of what you mention to have been done by you, I am a stranger to. The frequent callings, by yourself and by your servant, did not, that I recollect, come to my knowledge. It is possible some of them might have been mentioned to me, and, in the hurry of my mind, forgotten. Once, I remember, I saw your servant just as I was going out on some urgent business. I sent a verbal message, promising that I would see you; which I intended to do, as soon as I had made up my resolution on the business of the interview. When I received your note I was about sending you an answer in writing; but, upon inquiring for your servant, and finding him gone, I omitted it, with an intention to see you personally.
You say it is near six months since you first applied to me on the business in question. A great part of the time I gave you all the answer I could give you—to wit, that I had written to Mr. Macaulay, and only waited his answer. About two months since, I received it. I have been the greater part of the time out of town on indispensable business. In the intervals I have been occupied about objects of immediate and absolute necessity, which could not have been delayed without letting my business run into utter confusion. Mr. Macaulay’s concerns have been hanging upon my spirits. I have been promising myself, from day to day, to bring them to a conclusion, but more pressing objects have unavoidably postponed it. I thought the delay required some apology to Mr. Macaulay, but I never dreamt of having given occasion of offence to you.
I will not, however, deny, upon a review of what has passed, that there have been, through hurry and inadvertency on my part, appearances of neglect towards you; but between gentlemen and men of business, unfavorable conclusions ought not to be drawn before explanations are asked. Allowances ought to be made for the situations of parties; and the omissions of men, deeply involved in business, ought rather to be ascribed to that cause than to ill intentions.
Had you, in the first instance, expressed to me (in such a manner as respect for yourself and delicacy to me dictated) your sense of these appearances, I should have taken pains to satisfy you that nothing improper towards you was intended by me. But to make one of my clerks the instrument of communication, and the bearer to me of a harsh accusation, was ill-judged and ungenteel. To take it for granted that you had received an injury from me, without first giving me an opportunity of an explanation, and to couch your sense of it in terms so offensive as some of those used in your letter, is an additional instance of precipitation and rudeness. Inadvertencies susceptible of misapprehension, I may commit; but I am incapable of intending to wound or injure any man who has given me no cause for it; and I am incapable of doing any thing, sir, of which I need be ashamed. The intimation, on your part, is unmerited and unwarrantable. After thus having explained my own conduct to you, and given you my ideas of yours, it will depend on yourself how far I shall be indifferent, or not, to your future sentiments of my character. I shall only add, that tomorrow you shall receive from me my determination on the matter of business between us.[Back to Table of Contents]
November 23, 1785.
Major Fairly is just setting out on a visit to you, I believe, on some business relating to the Cincinnati. The society of this State met some short time since, and took into consideration the proposed alterations in the original frame of the Institution; some were strenuous for adhering to the old constitution, a few adopting the new, and many for a middle line. This disagreement of opinion and the consideration that the different State societies pursuing different courses—some adopting the alterations entire, others rejecting them in the same way, others adopting in part and rejecting in part—might beget confusion and defeat good purposes, induced a proposal which was unanimously agreed to, that a committee should be appointed to prepare and lay before the society a circular-letter expressive of the sense of the society on the different alterations proposed, and recommending the giving powers to a general meeting of the Cincinnati, to make such alterations as might be thought advisable to obviate objections and promote the interests of the society. I believe there will be no difficulty in agreeing to change the present mode of continuing the society; but it appears to be the wish of our members that some other mode may be defined and substituted, and that it might not be left to the uncertainty of legislative provision. We object, too, to putting the funds under legislative direction. Indeed, it appears to us, the Legislatures will not at present be inclined to give us any sanction. I am of the committee, and I cannot but flatter myself that when the object is better digested and more fully explained it will meet your approbation.
The poor Baron1 is still soliciting Congress, and has every prospect of indigence before him. He has his imprudences, but, upon the whole, he has rendered valuable services, and his merits and the reputation of the country alike demand that he should not be left to suffer want.
If there could be any mode by which your influence could be employed in his favor, by writing to your friends in Congress, or otherwise, the Baron and his friends would be under great obligations to you.[Back to Table of Contents]
to nathaniel hazard
April 24, 1786.
Your letter of the a 21st was only delivered me this morning. The good opinion of liberal men I hold in too high estimation not to be flattered by that part of your letter which relates to me personally. The other part I have communicated to General Schuyler, and he assures me he will see all his friends this afternoon upon the subject; so that I have no doubt, as far as his influence extends, it will be employed in favor of the success of the bill in the Assembly, as it has already been in the Senate.
In taking this step, however, I would not be understood to declare any opinion concerning the principles of the bill, with which I am not sufficiently acquainted to form a decided opinion. I have merely made your letter the occasion of introducing the subject to General Schuyler, whose sentiments are as favorable to your wishes as you could desire.
I make this observation from that spirit of candor which I hope will always direct my conduct. I am aware that I have been represented as an enemy to the wishes of what you call your corps. If by this has been meant that I do not feel as much as any man, not immediately interested, for the distresses of those merchants who have been in a great measure the victims of the Revolution, the supposition does not do justice either to my head or my heart. But if it means that I have always viewed the mode of relieving them as a matter of peculiar delicacy and difficulty, it is well founded.
I should have thought it unnecessary to enter into this explanation, were it not that I am held up as a candidate at the ensuing election; and I would not wish that the step I have taken in respect to your letter should be considered as implying more than it does; for I would never wish to conciliate at the expense of candor. On the other hand, I confide in your liberality not to infer more than I intend from the explanation I have given; and hope you will believe me to be, with great cordiality and esteem, etc.[Back to Table of Contents]
to messrs. semphill & co.
- New York,
May 20, 1786.
On the recommendation of Mr. Nicholas Cruger, 1 of this city, I take the liberty to commit to your care a small matter in which I am interested. I am informed that Mr. John Hallwood, a relation of mine, who died some time since in St. Croix, has, by his will, left me one-fourth part of his estate. The amount, I imagine, is not very considerable, but, whatever it may be, I shall be glad to have it collected and remitted. Mr. Hallwood’s estate, I believe, consisted entirely in his share in his grandfather’s estate, Mr. James Lytton, 2 whose affairs have been a long time in a dealing [sic] court, but one would hope are now ready for a final settlement. Dr. Hugh Knox can give you further information on the subject.
As I know money concerns in your island rarely improve by delay, if things should not be in a train to admit of an immediate settlement, I shall be ready, to effect this to transfer my claim to any person who may incline to the purchase at a discount of five and twenty per cent.
This, however, I submit to your discretion, and authorize you to do whatever you think for my interest. Inclosed I send you a power of attorney, which I presume you will find competent. Should it be in my power to render you any services here, I shall with pleasure obey your commands.[Back to Table of Contents]
to john thomas, esq., sheriff of westchester
- New York,
June 22, 1786.
I think it necessary to apprise you that in my opinion you will not be safe in taking paper money on executions, without the consent of the parties, and in those which I have sent to you that consent I believe cannot be obtained.
This is a matter, however, which I mention to you in confidence, for your own safety. I would not wish to have much said about it till you should be under a necessity of explaining yourself, lest it should injure the credit of the paper on its first appearance, to which (whatever be my opinion of the measure itself since it has been adopted) I would not wish to be accessory. 1[Back to Table of Contents]
- New York,
July 3. 1787.
In my passage through the jerseys, and since my arrival here, I have taken particular pains to discover the public sentiment, and I am more and more convinced that this is the critical opportunity for establishing the prosperity of this country on a solid foundation. I have conversed with men of information, not only in this city, but from different parts of the State, and they agree that there has been an astonishing revolution for the better in the minds of the people.
The prevailing apprehension among thinking men is, that the Convention, from the fear of shocking the popular opinion, will not go far enough. They seem to be convinced that a strong, well-mounted government will better suit the popular palate than one of a different complexion. Men in office are indeed taking all possible pains to give an unfavorable impression of the Convention, but the current seems to be moving strongly the other way.
A plain but sensible man, in a conversation I had with him yesterday, expressed himself nearly in this manner: The people begin to be convinced that “their excellent form of government, “as they have been used to call it, will not answer their purpose, and that they must substitute something not very remote from that which they have lately quitted.
These appearances, though they will not warrant a conclusion that the people are yet ripe for such a plan as I advocate, yet serve to prove that there is no reason to despair of their adopting one equally energetic, if the Convention should think proper to propose it. They serve to prove that we ought not to allow too much weight to objections drawn from the supposed repugnance of the people to an efficient constitution. I confess I am more and more inclined to believe that former habits of thinking are regaining their influence with more rapidity than is generally imagined.
Not having compared ideas with you, sir, I cannot judge how far our sentiments agree; but, as I persuade myself the genuineness of my representations will receive credit with you, my anxiety for the event of the deliberations of the Convention induces me to make this communication of what appears to be the tendency of the public mind.
I own to you, sir, that I am seriously and deeply distressed at the aspect of the counsels which prevailed when I left Philadelphia. I fear that we shall let slip the golden opportunity of rescuing the American empire from disunion, anarchy, and misery.
No motly or feeble measure can answer the end, or will finally receive the public support. Decision is true wisdom, and will be not less reputable to the Convention than salutary to the community.
I shall of necessity remain here ten or twelve days. If I have reason to believe that my attendance at Philadelphia will not be mere waste of time, I shall, after that period, rejoin the Convention.[Back to Table of Contents]
- New York ———,
Agreeably to what passed between us, I have had an interview with Mr. Auldjo, and I flatter myself if there is (as I doubt not there will be) as much moderation on the part of Major Peirce as there appears to be on that of Mr. Auldjo, that the affair between them may yet be amicably terminated.
But Mr. Auldjo observes, I confess in my opinion with propriety, that he ought to know with some precision the matters which have given offence to Major Peirce, before he can enter into explanations, which he declares himself to be very ready to do with coolness and candor the moment he shall be enabled to do it by a specification of the subjects of complaint. If a personal interview is for any reason disagreeable to Major Peirce, I entreat you, my dear sir, to obtain from him and to communicate to me by letter the substance of what has occasioned his dissatisfaction, with so much particularity only as will put it in the power of Mr. Auldjo to give an explicit answer. Major Peirce will, I hope, have no scruples about this, for as the door of explanation has been opened by Mr. Auldjo, there is no punctilio which stands in his way; and I trust he will feel the force of a sentiment which prudence and humanity equally dictate, that extremities ought then only to ensue when after a fair experiment accommodation has been found impracticable. An attention to this principle interests the characters of both the gentlemen concerned, and with them our own, and from every other consideration, as well as that of personal friendship to the parties, I sincerely wish to give it its full operation. I am convinced you are not less anxious to effect this than myself, and I trust our joint endeavors will not prove unsuccessful.
I cannot, however, conclude without making one remark. Though Mr. Auldjo has expressed and still entertains a desire of explanation, it would ill become him to solicit it. Whatever therefore in my expressions may seem to urge such an explanation with the earnestness of entreaty, must be ascribed to my own feelings and to that inclination which every man of sensibility must feel—not to see extremities take place if it be in his power to prevent them, or until they become an absolutely necessary sacrifice to public opinion.[Back to Table of Contents]
to major peirce
As the enclosed contains details relating to your private affairs, it is judged most delicate to put it under cover to you. Permit me to use the privilege of a friend to say, that what has appeared to you offensive in the conduct of Mr. Auldjo, seems to have been a very natural result of disappointments on his side, to which your disappointments gave birth, influenced too, perhaps, in some degree by incidents which may have been misrepresented or misunderstood. His explanations speak a language which I sincerely think may put an end to your controversy— I as sincerely hope this may be the case. I speak with the more freedom, because in a difference between men I esteem—a difference evidently foreign from any real enmity between them,—I can never consent to take up the character of a second in a duel till I have in vain tried that of the mediator. Be content with enough, for more ought not to be expected.1[Back to Table of Contents]
- New York,
I have delivered the paper you committed to me, as it stood altered, to Major Peirce, from whose conduct I am to conclude the affair between you is at an end. He informs me that he is shortly to set out on a jaunt up the North River.
As you intimate a wish to have my sentiments in writing on the transaction, I shall with pleasure declare that the steps you have taken in consequence of Mr. Peirce’s challenge have been altogether in conformity to my opinion of what would be prudent, proper, and honorable on your part. They seem to have satisfied Mr. Pierce’s scruples arising from what he apprehended in some particulars to have been your conduct to him, and I presume we are to hear nothing further of the matter.[Back to Table of Contents]
to rufus king1
- New York,
August 20, 1787.
Since my arrival here I have written to my colleagues, informing them if either of them would come down, I would accompany him to Philadelphia; so much for the sake of propriety and public opinion.
In the meantime, if any material alteration should happen to be made in the plan now before the Convention, I will be obliged to you for a communication of it. I will also be obliged to you to let me know when your conclusion is at hand, for I would choose to be present at that time.[Back to Table of Contents]
to colonel jeremiah wadsworth2
August 20, 1787.
My Dear Sir:
The inclosed is said to be the copy of a letter circulating in your State. The history of its appearance among us is that it was sent by one Whitmore, of Stratford, formerly in the PaymasterGeneral’s office, to one James Reynolds of this city.
I am at a loss clearly to understand its object, and have some suspicion that it has been fabricated to excite jealousy against the Convention, with a view at an opposition to their recommendations. At all events, I wish, if possible, to trace its source, and send it to you for that purpose.
Whitmore must of course say where he got it, and by pursuing the information, we may at last come at the author. Let me know the political connections of this man and the complexion of the people most active in the circulation of the letter. Be so good as to attend to this inquiry somewhat particularly, as I have different reasons of some moment for setting it on foot.[Back to Table of Contents]
to rufus king
- New York,
August 28, 1787.
I wrote you some days since to request you to inform me when there was a prospect of your finishing, as I intended to be with you for certain reasons before the conclusion.
It is whispered here that some late changes in your scheme have taken place which give it a higher tone. Is this the case? I leave town to-day to attend a circuit in a neighboring county, from which I shall return the last of the week, and shall be glad to find a line from you explanatory of the period of the probable termination of your business.[Back to Table of Contents]
You probably saw some time since some animadversions on certain expressions of Governor Clinton respecting the Convention. You may have seen a piece signed “A Republican,” attempting to bring the fact into question, and endeavoring to contro vert the conclusions drawn from it, if true. My answer you will find in the inclosed. I trouble you with it merely from that anxiety which is natural to every man, to have his veracity at least stand in a fair light. The matter seems to be given up by the Governor, and the fact, with the inferences from it, stand against him in full force and operate as they ought to do.
It is, however, of some importance to the party to diminish whatever credit or influence I may possess, and to effect this they stick at nothing. Among many contemptible artifices practised by them they have had recourse to an insinuation that I palmed myself upon you, and that you dismissed me from your family. 1 This I confess hurts my feelings, and if it obtains credit, will require a contradiction.
You, sir, will undoubtedly recollect the manner in which I came into your family and went out of it, and know how destitute of foundation such insinuations are. My confidence in your justice will not permit me to doubt your readiness to put the matter in its true light in your answer to this letter. It cannot be my wish to give any complexion to the affair which might excite the least scruple to you, but I confess it would mortify me to be under the imputation either of having obtruded myself into the family of a General or having been turned out of it.
The new Constitution is as popular in this city as it is possible for any thing to be, and the prospect thus far is favorable to it throughout the State. But there is no saying what turn things may take when the full flood of official influence is let loose against it. This is to be expected; for, though the Governor has not publicly declared himself, his particular connections and confidential friends are loud against it.
Mrs. Hamilton joins in respectful compliments to Mrs. Washington.[Back to Table of Contents]
October 30, 1787.
I am much obliged to your Excellency for the explicit manner in which you contradict the insinuations mentioned in my last letter. The only use I shall make of your answer will be to put it into the hands of a few friends.
The constitution proposed has in this State warm friends and warm enemies. The first impressions everywhere are in its favor, but the artillery of its opponents makes some impression. The event can not yet be foreseen. The inclosed is the first number of a series of papers to be written in its defence.1
I send you also, at the request of the Baron de Steuben, a printed pamphlet containing the grounds of an application lately made to Congress. He tells me there is some reference to you, the object of which he does not himself seem clearly to understand, but imagines it may be in your power to be of service to him.
There are public considerations that induce me to be somewhat anxious for his success. He is fortified with materials which, in Europe, could not fail to establish the belief of the contract he alleges. The documents of service he possesses are of a nature to convey an exalted idea of them. The compensations he has received, though considerable, if compared with those which have been received by American officers, will, according to European ideas, be very scanty in application to a stranger who is acknowledged to have rendered essential services. Our reputation abroad is not at present too high. To dismiss an old soldier empty and hungry, to seek the bounty of those on whom he has no claims, and to complain of unkind returns and violated engagements, will certainly not tend to raise it. I confess, too, there is something in my feelings which would incline me in this case to go further than might be strictly necessary, rather than drive a man, at the Baron’s time of life, who has been a faithful servant, to extremities. And this is unavoidable if he does not succeed in his present attempt. What he asks would, all calculations made, terminate in this: an allowance of his five hundred and eighty guineas a year. He only wishes a recognition of the contract. He knows that until affairs mend no money can be produced. I do not know how far it may be in your power to do him any good, but I shall be mistaken if the considerations I have mentioned do not appear to your Excellency to have some weight.[Back to Table of Contents]
to james madison, jr.
- New York,
April 3, 1788.
I have been very delinquent, my dear sir, in not thanking you for your letter from Philadelphia. The remarks you made on a certain subject are important, and will be attended to.
There is truly much embarrassment in the case.
I think, however, the principles we have talked of are not only just, but will apply to the other departments. Nor will the consequences appear so disagreeable as they may seem at first sight, when we attend to the true import of the rule established. The States retain all the authorities they were before possessed of, not alienated in the three modes pointed out; but this does not include cases which are the creatures of the new Constitution. For instance, the crime of treason against the United States immediately is a crime known only to the new Constitution. There of course was no power in the State constitutions to pardon that crime. There will therefore be none under the new, etc. This is something likely, it seems to me, to afford the best solution of the difficulty. I send you the Federalist from the beginning to the conclusion of the commentary on the Executive Branch. If our suspicions of the author be right, he must be too much engaged to make a rapid progress in what remains. The Court of Chancery and a Circuit Court are now sitting.
we are told that your election has succeeded, with which we all felicitate ourselves. I will thank you for an account of the result generally. In this State our prospects are much as you left them. A moot point which side will prevail. Our friends to the northward are active.[Back to Table of Contents]
to james madison, jr.
Map 4, 1788.
My Dear Sir:
I believe I am in your debt a letter or two, which is owing to my occupation in relation to the elections, etc.
These are now over in this State, but the result is not known. All depends upon Albany, where both sides claim the victory. Our doubts will not be removed till the latter end of the month. I hope your expectations of Virginia have not diminished.
Respecting the first volume of Publius I have executed your commands. The books have been sent addressed to the care of Governor Randolph. The second, we are informed, will be out in the course of a week, and an equal number shall be forwarded. Inclosed is a letter, committed to my care by Mr. Vanderkemp, which I forward with pleasure.[Back to Table of Contents]
to gouverneur morris
- New York,
May 19, 1788.
My Dear Sir:
I acknowledge my delinquency in not thanking you before for your obliging letter from Richmond. But the truth is that I have been so overwhelmed in avocations of one kind or another, that I have scarcely had a moment to spare to a friend. You I trust will be the less disposed to be inexorable, as I hope you will believe there is no one for whom I have more inclination than yourself—I mean of the male kind.
Your account of the situation of Virginia was interesting, and the present appearances as represented here justify your conjectures. It does not however appear that the adoption of the Constitution can be considered as out of doubt in that State. Its conduct upon the occasion will certainly be of critical importance.
In this State, as far as we can judge, the elections have gone wrong. The event, however, will not certainly be known till the end of the month. Violence rather than moderation is to be looked for from the opposite party. Obstinacy seems the prevailing trait in the character of its leader. The language is that if all the other States adopt, this is to persist in refusing the Constitution. It is reduced to a certainty that Clinton has in several conversations declared the Union unnecessary—though I have the information through channels which do not permit a public use to be made of it.
We have, notwithstanding this unfavorable complexion of things, two sources of hope: one, the chance of a ratification by nine States before we decide, and the influence of this upon the firmness of the followers; the other, the probability of a change of sentiment in the people, auspicious to the Constitution.
The current has been for some time running toward it; though the whole flood of official influence, accelerated by a torrent of falsehood, early gave the public opinion so violent a direction in a wrong channel that it was not possible suddenly to alter its course. This is a mighty stiff simile; but you know what I mean; and after having started it, I did not choose to give up the chase.
The members of the Convention in this city, by a majority of nine or ten to one, will be: John Jay, Robert R. Livingston, Richard Morris, John Sloss Hobart, James Duane, Isaac Roosevelt, Richard Harrison, Nicholas Low, Alexander Hamilton.[Back to Table of Contents]
to james madison, jr.
- New York,
May 19, 1788.
My Dear Sir:
Some days since I wrote to you, my dear sir, enclosing a letter from a Mr. Vanderkemp, etc.
I then mentioned to you that the question of a majority for or against the Constitution would depend upon the County of Albany. By the later accounts from that quarter, I fear much that the issue there has been against us.
As Clinton is truly the leader of his party, and is inflexibly obstinate, I count little on overcoming opposition by reason. Our only chances will be the previous ratification by nine States, which may shake the firmness of his followers; and a change in the sentiments of the people, which have, for some time, been travelling towards the Constitution, though the first impressions, made by every species of influence and artifice, were too strong to be eradicated in time to give a decisive turn to the elections. We shall leave nothing undone to cultivate a favorable disposition in the citizens at large.
The language of the Anti-Federalists is, that if all the other States adopt, New York ought still to hold out. I have the most direct intelligence, but in a manner which forbids a public use being made of it, that Clinton has, in several conversations, declared his opinion of the inutility of the UNION. It is an unhappy reflection that the friends to it should, by quarrelling for straws among themselves, promote the designs of its adversaries. We think here that the situation of your State is critical. Let me know what you now think of it. I believe you meet nearly at the time we do. It will be of vast importance that an exact communication should be kept up between us at that period; and the moment any decisive question is taken, if favorable, I request you to dispatch an express to me, with pointed orders to make all possible diligence, by changing horses, etc. All expense shall be thankfully and liberally paid. I executed your commands respecting the first volume of the Federalist. I sent forty of the common copies and twelve of the finer ones, addressed to the care of Governor Randolph. The printer announces the second volume in a day or two, when an equal number of the two kinds shall also be forwarded. He informs that the judicial Department—Trial by Jury—Bill of Rights, etc., is discussed in some additional papers which have not yet appeared in the Gazettes.[Back to Table of Contents]
to john sullivan, esq., president of the state of new hampshire
- New York,
June 6, 1788.
You will no doubt have understood that the Antifederal party has prevailed in this State by a large majority. It is therefore of the utmost importance that all external circumstances should be made use of to influence their conduct. This will suggest to you the great advantage of a speedy decision in your State, if you can be sure of the question, and a prompt communication of the event to us. With this view, permit me to request that the instant you have taken a decisive vote in favor of the Constitution, you send an express to me at Poughkeepsie. Let him take the shortest route to that place, change horses on the road, and use all possible diligence. I shall with pleasure defray all expenses, and give a liberal reward to the person. As I suspect an effort will be made to precipitate us, all possible safe dispatch on your part, as well to obtain a decision as to communicate the intelligence of it, will be desirable. 1[Back to Table of Contents]
to james madison, jr.
- New York,
June 8, 1788.
My Dear Sir:
In my last, I think, I informed you that the elec tions had turned out, beyond expectation, favorable to the Anti-federal party. They have a majority of two thirds in the Convention, and, according to the best estimate I can form, of about four sevenths in the community. The views of the leaders in this city are pretty well ascertained to be turned towards a long adjournment—say, till next spring or summer. Their incautious ones observe that this will give an opportunity to the State to see how the government works, and to act according to circumstances.
My reasonings on the fact are to this effect: The leaders of the party hostile to the Constitution are equally hostile to the Union. They are, however, afraid to reject the Constitution at once, because that step would bring matters to a crisis between this State and the States which had adopted the Constitution, and between the parties in the State. A separation of the Southern District from the other parts of the State, it is perceived, would become the object of the Federalists and of the neighboring States. They therefore resolve upon a long adjournment as the safest and most artful course to effect their final purpose. They suppose that when the government gets into operation, it will be obliged to take some steps in respect to revenue, etc., which will furnish topics of declamation to its enemies in the several States, and will strengthen the minorities. If any considerable discontent should show itself, they will stand ready to head the opposition. If, on the contrary, the thing should go on smoothly, and the sentiments of our own people should change, they can elect to come into the Union. They, at all events, take the chances of time and the chapter of accidents.
How far their friends in the country will go with them, I am not able to say, but, as they have always been found very obsequious, we have little reason to calculate upon an uncompliant temper in the present instance. For my own part, the more I can penetrate the views of the Anti-federal party in this State, the more I dread the consequences of the nonadoption of the Constitution by any of the other States—the more I fear an eventual disunion and civil war. God grant that Virginia may accede. The example will have a vast influence on our politics. New Hampshire, all accounts give us to expect, will be an assenting State.
The number of the volumes of the Federalist which you desired have been forwarded, as well the second as the first, to the care of Governor Randolph. It was impossible to correct a certain error.
In a former letter, I requested you to communicate to me, by express, the event of any decisive question in favor of the Constitution, authorizing changes of horses, etc., with an assurance to the person that he will be liberally paid for his diligence.[Back to Table of Contents]
to james madison, jr.
Your letter of the 20th came to hand two days since. I regret that your prospects are not yet reduced to greater certainty. There is more and more reason to believe that our conduct will be influenced by yours.
Our discussions have not yet travelled beyond the power of taxation. To-day we shall probably quit this ground to pass to another. Our arguments con found, but do not convince. Some of the leaders, however, appear to be convinced by circumstances, and to be desirous of a retreat. This does not apply to the chief, who wishes to establish Clintonism on the basis of Anti-federalism.[Back to Table of Contents]
to james madison, jr.
June 21, 1788.
Yesterday, my dear sir, the Convention made a House. That day and this have been spent in preliminary arrangements. To-morrow we go into a committee of the whole on the Constitution. There is every appearance that a full discussion will take place, which will keep us together at least a fortnight. It is not easy to conjecture what will be the result. Our adversaries greatly outnumber us. The leaders gave indications of a pretty desperate disposition in private conversations previous to the meeting; but I imagine the minor partisans have their scruples, and an air of moderation is now assumed. So far the thing is not despaired of. A happy issue with you must have a considerable influence upon us. I have time to add nothing more than the assurance of my sincere attachment.[Back to Table of Contents]
to james madison, jr.
June 21, 1788.
My Dear Sir:
I thank you for your letter of the 9th instant, and am glad to learn that you think the chance is in your favor. I hope no disagreeable change may appear. Yet, I own I fear something from your indisposition.
Our debate here began on the clause respecting the proportion of representation, etc., which has taken up two days. To-morrow, I imagine, we shall talk about the power over elections. The only good information I can give you is, that we shall be some time together, and take the chance of events.
The object of the party at present is undoubtedly conditional amendments. What effect events may have cannot precisely be foreseen. I believe the adoption by New Hampshire is certain.[Back to Table of Contents]
to james madison, jr.
Friday morning, June 27, 1788.
A day or two ago General Schuyler, at my request, sent forward to you an express with an account of the adoption of the Constitution by New Hampshire. We eagerly wait for further intelligence from you, as our chance of success depends upon you. There are some slight symptoms of relaxation in some of the leaders, which authorizes a gleam of hope, if you do well, but certainly I think not otherwise.[Back to Table of Contents]
to james madison, jr.
July 8, 1788.
My Dear Sir:
I felicitate you sincerely on the event in Virginia, but my satisfaction will be allayed if I discover too much facility in the business of amendment-making. I fear the system will be wounded in some of its vital parts by too general a concurrence in some very injudicious recommendations. I allude, more particu larly to the power of taxation. The more I consider requisition in any shape, the more I am out of humor with it. We yesterday passed through the Constitution. To-day some definitive proposition is to be brought forward, but what, we are at a loss to judge. We have good reason to believe that our opponents are not agreed, and this affords some ground of hope. Different things are thought of—conditions precedent, or previous amendments; conditions subsequent, or the proposition of amendments, upon condition that if they are not adopted within a limited time, the State shall be at liberty to withdraw from the Union; and, lastly, recommendatory amendments. In either case, constructive declarations will be carried as far as possible. We will go as far as we can in the latter without invalidating the act, and will concur in rational recommendations. The rest for our opponents. We are informed there has been a disturbance in the city of Albany, on the fourth of July, which has occasioned bloodshed. The Anti-federalists were the aggressors, and the Federalists the victors. Thus stand our accounts at present. We trust, however, the matter has passed over, and tranquillity been restored.[Back to Table of Contents]
to james madison, jr.
Saturday, July, 1788.
I thank you, my dear sir, for yours by the post. Yesterday I communicated to Duer our situation, which I presume he will have communicated to you. It remains exactly the same. No further question having been taken, I fear the footing I mentioned to Duer is the best upon which it can be placed, but every thing possible will yet be attempted to bring the party from that stand to an unqualified ratifica tion. Let me know your idea upon the possibility of our being received on that plan. You will understand that the only qualification will be the reservation of a right to recede in case our amendments have not been decided upon in one of the modes pointed out by the Constitution, within a certain number of years, perhaps five or seven. If this can, in the first instance, be admitted as a ratification, I do not fear any further consequences. Congress will, I presume, recommend certain amendments to render the structure of the government more secure. This will satisfy the more considerate and honest opposers of the Constitution, and with the aid of them will break up the party.[Back to Table of Contents]
to nathaniel chipman 1
July 22, 1788.
Your brother delivered me your favor, which I re ceived with pleasure, as the basis of a correspondence that may be productive of public good.
The accession of Vermont to the Confederacy is, doubtless, an object of great importance to the whole; and it appears to me that this is the favorable moment for effecting it upon the best terms for all concerned. Besides mere general reasons, there are circumstances of the moment which will forward a proper arrangement. One of the first subjects of deliberation with the new Congress will be the independence of Kentucky, for which the Southern States will be anxious. The Northern will be glad to send a counterpoise in Vermont. These mutual interests and inclinations will facilitate a proper result.
I see nothing that can stand in your way but the interfering claims under the grants of New York. As to taxation, the natural operation of the new system will place you exactly where you might wish to be. The public debt, as far as it can prudently be provided for, will be by the Western lands and the appropriation of some general fund. There will be no distribution o f it to particular parts o f the community. The fund will be sought for in indirect taxation; as for a number of years, and except in time of war, direct taxes would be an impolitic measure. Hence, as you can have no objection to your proportion of contribution as consumers, you can fear nothing from the article of taxation.
I readily conceive that it will hardly be practicable to you to come into the Union, unless you are secured from claims under New York grants. Upon the whole, therefore, I think it will be expedient for you, as early as possible, to ratify the Constitution, “upon condition that Congress shall provide for the extinguishment of all existing claims to land under grants of the State of New York, which may interfere with claims under the grants of the State of Vermont.” You will do well to conform your boundary to that heretofore marked out by Congress, otherwise insuperable difficulties would be likely to arise with this State.
I should think it altogether unadvisable to annex any other conditions to your ratification, for there is scarcely any of the amendments proposed that will not have a party opposed to it, and there are several that will meet with a very strong opposition; and it would, therefore, be highly inexpedient for you to embarrass your main object by any collateral difficulties.
As I write in Convention, I have it not in my power to enlarge. You will perceive my general ideas on the subject. I will only add that it will be wise to lay as little impediment as possible in the way of your reception into the Union.[Back to Table of Contents]
to james madison, jr.
July 22, 1788.
I wrote to you by the last post, since which nothing material has turned up here. We are debating on amendments without having decided what is to be done with them. There is so great a diversity in the views of our opponents that it is impossible to predict any thing. Upon the whole, however, our fears diminish.[Back to Table of Contents]
- New York,
August 13, 1788.
Capt. Cochran of the British navy has requested my aid in recovering a family watch worn by his brother, who fell at Yorktown, and now in the possession of Gen. Morgan. In compliance with his request I have written the letter herewith to Gen. Morgan, which I take the liberty to convey through you, in hope that if you see no impropriety in it, you would add your influence to the endeavor to gratify Capt. Cochran. It is one of those things in which the affections are apt to be interested, beyond the value of the object, and in which one naturally feels an inclination to oblige.
I have delivered to Mr. Madison, to be forwarded to you, a set of the papers under the signature of Publius,1 neatly enough bound to be honored with a place in your library. I presume you have understood that the writers of these papers are chiefly Mr. Madison and myself, with some aid from Mr. Jay.
I take it for granted, sir, you have concluded to comply with what will no doubt be the general call of your country in relation to the new government. You will permit me to say that it is indispensable you should lend yourself to its first operations. It is of little purpose to have introduced a system, if the weightiest influence is not given to its firm establishment in the outset.[Back to Table of Contents]
to samuel broome1
- New York,
August 16, 1788.
I have this moment received your letter of the thirteenth instant, and am sorry that the rules of propriety in respect to my situation as a member of Congress will not permit my acting in the capacity you wish.
My situation for some time past has prevented my acknowledging one or two of your favors, which have been duly handed to me. I recollect that one of them contains an inquiry concerning your son, to which you will naturally desire an answer. My public avocations for some time past have put it out of my power to ascertain the progress he has made—though I expect when I shall be enough disengaged to examine, to find it a good one; it cannot fail to be so if his diligence has been equal to his capacity. I shall shortly write you further on the subject.[Back to Table of Contents]
to governor wm. livingston
- New York,
August 29, 1788.
We are informed here that there is some probability that your Legislature will instruct your delegates to vote for Philadelphia as the place of the meeting of the first Congress under the new government. I presume this information can hardly be well founded, as upon my calculations there is not a State in the Union so much interested in having the temporary residence at New York as New Jersey.
As between Philadelphia and New York, I am mistaken if a greater proportion of your State will not be benefited by having the seat of government at the latter than the former place.
If at the latter, too, its exposed and eccentric position will necessitate the early establishment of a permanent seat, and in passing south it is highly probable the government would light upon the Delaware in New Jersey. The Northern States do not wish to increase Pennsylvania by an accession of all the wealth and population of the federal city. Pennsylvania herself, when not seduced by immediate possession, will be glad to concur in a situation on the Jersey side of the Delaware. Here are at once a majority of the States; but place the government once down in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania will, of course, hold fast; the State of Delaware will do the same.
All the States south, looking forward to the time when the balance of population will enable them to carry the government further south (say to the Potomac), and being accommodated in the meantime as well as they wish, will concur in no change. The government, from the delay, will take root in Philadelphia, and Jersey will lose all prospect of the federal city within her limits.
These appear to me calculations so obvious that I cannot persuade myself New Jersey will so much oversee her interest as to fall, in the present instance, into the snares of Pennsylvania.[Back to Table of Contents]
- New York,
Your Excellency’s friendly and obliging letter of the 28th ultimo came safely to hand. I thank you for your assurance of seconding my application to General Morgan. The truth of that affair is that he purchased the watch for a trifle of a British soldier, who plundered Major Cochran at the moment of his fall at Yorktown.
I should be deeply pained, my dear sir, if your scruples in regard to a certain station should be matured into a resolution to decline it, though I am neither surprised at their existence, nor can I but agree in opinion that the caution you observe in deferring an ultimate determination is prudent. I have, however, reflected maturely on the subject, and have come to a conclusion (in which I feel no hesitation), that every public and personal consideration will demand from you an acquiescence in what will certainly be the unanimous wish of your country. The absolute retreat which you meditated at the close of the late war was natural and proper. Had the government produced by the Revolution gone on in a tolerable train, it would have been most advisable to have persisted in that retreat. But I am clearly of opinion that the crisis which brought you again into public view left you no alternative but to comply, and I am equally clear in the opinion that you are by that act pledged to take a part in the execution of the government. I am not less convinced that the impression of this necessity of your filling the station in question is so universal that you run no risk of any uncandid imputation by submitting to it. But even if this were not the case, a regard to your own reputation, as well as to the public good, calls upon you in the strongest manner to run that risk.
It cannot be considered as a compliment to say that on your acceptance of the office of President the success of the new government in its commencement may materially depend. Your agency and influence will be not less important in preserving it from the future attacks of its enemies than they have been in recommending it in the first instance to the adoption of the people. Independent of all considerations drawn from this source, the point of light in which you stand at home and abroad will make an infinite difference in the respectability with which the government will begin its operations in the alternative of your being or not being at the head of it. I forbear to urge considerations which might have a more personal application. What I have said will suffice for the inferences I mean to draw.
First. In a matter so essential to the well-being of society as the prosperity of a newly-instituted government, a citizen of so much consequence as yourself to its success has no option but to lend his services if called for. Permit me to say it would be inglorious in such a situation not to hazard the glory, however great, which he might have previously acquired.
Secondly. Your signature to the proposed system pledges your judgment for its being such a one as, upon the whole, was worthy of the public approbation. If it should miscarry (as men commonly decide from success, or the want of it), the blame will, in all probability, be laid on the system itself, and the framers of it will have to encounter the disrepute of having brought about a revolution in government, without substituting any thing that was worthy of the effort. They pulled down one Utopia, it will be said, to build up another. This view of the subject if I mistake not, my dear sir, will suggest to your mind greater hazard to that fame, which must be and ought to be dear to you, in refusing your future aid to the system than in affording it. I will only add that, in my estimate of the matter, that aid is indispensable.
I have taken the liberty to express these sentiments, and to lay before you my view of the subject. I doubt not the considerations mentioned have fully occurred to you, and I trust they will finally produce in your mind the same result which exists in mine. I flatter myself the frankness with which I have delivered myself will not be displeasing to you. It has been prompted by motives which you would not disapprove. The letter inclosed in yours was immediately forwarded.[Back to Table of Contents]
to theodore sedgwick1
- New York,
October 9, 1788.
I thank you, my dear sir, for your obliging congratulations on the event towards effecting which your aid as a joint laborer was so essential. I hope experience may show that, while it promotes the interest of this place, it will not be incompatible with public good. We are making efforts to prepare handsome accommodations for the session of the new Congress.
On the subject of Vice-President, my ideas have concurred with yours, and I believe Mr. Adams will have the votes of this State. He will certainly, I think, be preferred to the other gentleman. Yet certainly is perhaps too strong a word. I can conceive that the other, who is supposed to be a more pliable man, may command Anti-federal influence.
The only hesitation in my mind with regard to Mr. Adams has arisen within a day or two from a suggestion by a particular gentleman that he is unfriendly in his sentiments to General Washington. Richard H. Lee, who will probably, as rumor now runs, come from Virginia, is also in this style. The Lees and Adamses have been in the habit of uniting, and hence may spring up a cabal very embarrassing to the Executive, and of course to the administration of the government. Consider this—Round the reality of it, and let me hear from you.
What think you of Lincoln or Knox ? This is a flying thought.[Back to Table of Contents]
to nathaniel chipman
Your favor of the 6th of September has been duly handed to me, and I receive great pleasure from the hopes you appear to entertain of a favorable turn of affairs in Vermont in regard to the new government. It is certainly an object of mutual importance to yourselves, and to the Union, and well deserves the best endeavors of every discerning and good man.
I observe with satisfaction your opinion that Vermont will not make a point of introducing amendments. I mean as a condition of her accession. That ground would be the most hazardous which she could venture upon, as it is very probable that such amendments as might be popular with you would be deemed inadmissible by the friends of the system, who will doubtless be the most influential persons in the national councils; and who would rather submit to the inconvenience of your being out of the Union, till circumstances should alter, than consent to any thing that might impair the energy of the government. The article of taxation is, above all, the most delicate thing to meddle with; for as plenary power in that respect must ever be considered as the vital principle of government, no abridgment or constitutional suspension of that power can ever, upon mature consideration, be countenanced by the intelligent friends of an effective national government. You must, as I remarked in my former letter, rely upon the natural course of things, which I am satisfied will exempt you in ordinary times from direct taxation, on account of the difficulty of exercising it in so extensive a country, so peculiarly situated, with advantage to the revenue or satisfaction to the people. Though this difficulty will be gradually diminished from various causes, a considerable time must first elapse; and, in the interim, you will have nothing to apprehend on this score.
As far as indirect taxation is concerned, it will be impossible to exempt you from sharing in the burthen, nor can it be desired by your citizens. I repeat these ideas to impress you the more strongly with my sense of the danger of touching this chord, and of the impolicy of perplexing the main object with any such collateral experiments, while I am glad to perceive that you do not think your people will be tenacious on the point.
It will be useless for you to have any view in your act to the present Congress. They can of course do nothing in the matter. All you will have to do will be to pass an act of accession to the new Constitution, on the conditions on which you mean to rely. It will then be for the new government, when met, to declare whether you can be received on your own terms or not.
I am sorry to find that the affair of boundary is likely to create some embarrassment. Men’s minds, everywhere out of your State, are made up upon and reconciled to that which has been delineated by Con gress. Any departure from it must beget new discussions, in which all the passions will have their usual scope, and may occasion greater impediments than the real importance of the thing would justify. If, however, the further claims you state cannot be gotten over with you, I would still wish to see the experiment made, though with this clog, because I have it very much at heart that you should become a member of the Confederacy. It is, however, not to be inferred that the same disposition will actuate every body. In this State, the pride of certain individuals has too long triumphed over the public interest; and in several of the Southern States a jealousy of Northern influence will prevent any great zeal for increasing in the national councils the number of Northern votes.
I mention these circumstances (though I dare say they will have occurred to you), to show you the necessity of moderation and caution on your part, and the error of any sanguine calculation upon a disposition to receive you at any rate. A supposition of this nature might lead to fatal mistakes.
In the event of an extension of your boundary beyond the Congressional line, would it be impracticable for you to have commissioners appointed to adjust any differences which might arise? I presume the principal object with you in the extension of your boundary would be to cover some private interests. This might be matter of negotiation.
There is one thing which I think it proper to mention to you, about which I have some doubt—that is, whether a legislative accession would be deemed valid. It is the policy of the system to lay its foundations in the immediate consent of the people. You will best judge how far it is safe or practicable to have recourse to a convention. Whatever you do, no time ought to be lost. The present moment is undoubtedly critically favorable. Let it by all means be improved.[Back to Table of Contents]
to theodore sedgwick
- New York,
November 9, 1788.
My Dear Sir:
Your last letter but one met me at Albany attending court, from whence I am but just returned. Yours of the 2d inst. is this moment handed me.
I am very sorry for the schism you hint at among the Federalists, but I have so much confidence in the good management of the fast friends of the Constitution, that I hope no ill consequences will ensue from that disagreement. It will, however, be worthy of great care to avoid suffering a difference of opinion on collateral points, to produce any serious division between those who have hitherto drawn together on the great national question.
Permit me to add that I do not think you should allow any line to be run between those who wish to trust alterations to future experience, and those who are desirous of them at the present juncture. The rage for amendments is in my opinion rather to be parried by address than encountered with open force. And I shall therefore be loth to learn that your parties have been arranged professedly upon the distinction I have mentioned. The mode in which amendments may best be made, and twenty other matters, may serve as pretexts for avoiding the evil and securing the good.
On the question between Mr. H.1 and Mr. A.,2 Mr. King will probably have informed you that I have, upon the whole, concluded that the latter ought to be supported. My measures will be taken accordingly. I had but one scruple, but after mature consideration, I have relinquished it. Mr. A., to a sound understanding, has always appeared to me to add an ardent love for the public good, and, as his further knowledge of the world seems to have corrected those jealousies which he is represented to have once been influenced by, I trust nothing of the kind suggested in my former letter will disturb the harmony of the administration. Let me continue to hear from you, and believe me to be, with very great esteem and regard, etc.[Back to Table of Contents]
November 18, 1788.
Your last two letters have duly come to hand, and the Count de Moustier has delivered me the watch you committed to his charge. Your obliging attention to this matter claims my particular acknowledgments. I will make no apology for asking you to take the additional trouble of forwarding the enclosed to the General. I take the liberty of passing it through you, that you may, by perusing the contents, know the situation of the business.
The demand of fifty guineas is to me quite unexpected. I am sorry to add that there is too good evidence that it cost a mere trifle to the General. This, however, I mention in confidence. Nor shall I give you any further trouble on the subject. Whatever may be proper will be done.
Mrs. Hamilton requests her affectionate remembrances to Mrs. Washington, and joins me in the best wishes for you both.
P. S.—Your last letter, on a certain subject, I have received. I feel a conviction that you will finally see your acceptance to be indispensable. It is no compliment to say that no other man can sufficiently unite the public opinion or can give the requisite weight to the office in the commencement of the government. These considerations appear to me of themselves decisive. I am not sure that your refusal would not throw every thing into confusion. I am sure that it would have the worst effect imaginable. Indeed, as I hinted in a former letter, I think circumstances leave no option.[Back to Table of Contents]
to james madison, jr.
- New York,
November 23, 1788.
I thank you, my dear sir, for yours of the loth. The only part of it which surprises me is what you mention respecting Clinton. I cannot, however, be lieve that the plan will succeed. Nor, indeed, do I think that Clinton would be disposed to exchange his present appointment for that office, or risk his popularity by holding both. At the same time the attempt merits attention, and ought not to be neglected as chimerical or impracticable.
In Massachusetts the Electors will, I understand, be appointed by the Legislature, and will be all Federal, and ’t is probable will be, for the most part, in favor of Adams. It is said the same thing will happen in New Hampshire, and, I have reason to believe, it will be the case in Connecticut. In this State it is difficult to form any certain calculation. A large majority of the Assembly was doubtless of an Anti-federal complexion, but the schism in the party, which has been occasioned by the falling off of some of its leaders in the Convention, leaves me not without hope that, if matters are well managed, we may procure a majority for some pretty equal compromise. In the Senate we have the superiority by one. In New Jersey there seems to be no question but that the complexion of the Electors will be Federal, and I suppose, if thought expedient, they may be united in favor of Adams. Pennsylvania you can best judge of. From Delaware, Maryland, and South Carolina, I presume, we may count with tolerable assurance on Federal men; and I should imagine, if pains are taken, the danger of an Antifederal Vice-President might itself be rendered the instrument of Union. At any rate, their weight will not be thrown into the scale of Clinton, and I do not see from what quarter numbers can be marshalled in his favor equal to those who will advocate Adams, supposing even a division in the Federal votes.
On the whole I have concluded to support Adams, though I am not without apprehensions on the score we have conversed about. My principal reasons are these: First, he is a declared partisan of deferring to future experience the expediency of amendments in the system, and (although I do not altogether adopt this sentiment) it is much nearer my own than certain other doctrines. Secondly, he is certainly a character of importance in the Eastern States; if he is not Vice-President, one of two worse things will be likely to happen. Either he must be nominated to some important office, for which he is less proper, or will become a malcontent, and give additional weight to the opposition to the government. As to Knox, I cannot persuade myself that he will incline to the appointment. He must sacrifice emolument by it, which must be of necessity a primary object with him.
If it should be thought expedient to endeavor to unite on a particular character, there is a danger of a different kind to which we must not be inattentive—the possibility of rendering it doubtful who is appointed President. You know the Constitution has not provided the means of distinguishing in certain cases, and it would be disagreeable to have a man treading close upon the heels of the person we wish as President. May not the malignity of the opposition be, in some instances, exhibited even against him? Of all this we shall best judge when we know who are our Electors; and we must, in our different circles, take our measures accordingly.
I could console myself for what you mention respecting yourself, from a desire to see you in one of the executive departments, did I not perceive the representation will be defective in characters of a certain description. Wilson is evidently out of the question. King tells me he does not believe he will be elected into either House. Mr. Gouverneur Morris set out to-day for France, by way of Philadelphia. If you are not in one of the branches, the government may sincerely feel the want of men who unite to zeal all the requisite qualifications for parrying the machinations of its enemies. Might I advise, it would be, that you bent your course to Virginia.[Back to Table of Contents]
to theodore sedgwick
- New York,
January 29, 1789.
My Dear Sir:
I thank you for your two letters of the 4th and 7th instant which arrived here during my absence at .Albany, from which place I have but recently returned. I believe you may be perfectly tranquil on the subject of Mr. Adams’ election. It seems to be certain that all the Middle States will vote for him to Delaware inclusively, and probably Maryland. In the South there are no candidates thought of but Rutledge and Clinton. The latter will have the votes of Virginia, and it is possible some in South Carolina. Maryland will certainly not vote for Clinton, and New York, from our Legislature having by their contentions let slip the day, will not vote at all. For the last circumstance I am not sorry, as the most we could hope would be to balance accounts and do no harm. The Anti-federalists incline to an appointment notwithstanding, but I discourage it with the Federalists. Under these circumstances I see not how any person can come near Mr. Adams—that is, taking it for granted that he will unite the votes in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I expect that the federal votes in Virginia, if any, will be in favor of Adams.
You will probably have heard that our Legislature has passed a bill for electing representatives. The Houses continue to disagree about senators, and I fear a compromise will be impracticable. I do not, however, entirely lose hope. In this situation you will see we have much to apprehend respecting the seat of government. The Pennsylvanians are endeavoring to bring their forces early in the field—I hope our friends in the North will not be behindhand. On many accounts, indeed, it appears to be important that there be an appearance of zeal and punctuality in coming forward to set the government in motion.
I shall learn with definite pleasure that you are a representative. As to me, this will not be the case—I believe, from my own disinclination of the thing. We shall, however, I flatter myself, have a couple of Federalists.[Back to Table of Contents]
to rufus king
July 15, 1789.
My Dear Sir:
I received your letter by the last post but one. I immediately set about circulating an idea that it would be injurious to the city to have Duane elected, as the probability was some very unfit character would be his successor. My object was to have this sentiment communicated to our members. But a stop was put to my measures by a letter received from Burr, announcing that at a general meeting of the Federalists of both Houses, Schuyler and Duane had been determined upon in a manner that precluded future attempts.
I find, however, by a letter from General Schuyler, received this day, that L‘Hommedieu and Morris may spoil all. Troup tells me that L‘Hommedieu is opposed to you. He made our friend Benson believe that he would even relinquish himself for you. What does all this mean?
Certain matters here, about which we have so often talked, remain in statu quo1 .[Back to Table of Contents]
to oliver wolcott
- New York,
September 13, 1789.
It is with pleasure I am able to inform you that you have been appointed Auditor in the Department of the Treasury. The salary of this office is fifteen hundred dollars. Your friends having expressed a doubt of your acceptance, I cannot forbear saying that I shall be happy to find the doubt has been ill-founded, as from the character I have received of you I am persuaded you will be an acquisition to the department. I need scarcely add that your presence here as soon as possible is essential to the progress of business.1[Back to Table of Contents]
- New York,
October 6, 1789.
My Dear Marquis:
I have seen, with a mixture of pleasure and apprehension, the progress of the events which have lately taken place in your country. As a friend to mankind and to liberty, I rejoice in the efforts which you are making to establish it, while I fear much for the final success of the attempts, for the fate of those I esteem who are engaged in it, and for the danger, in case of success, of innovations greater than will con sist with the real felicity of your nation. If your affairs still go well when this reaches you, you will ask why this foreboding of ill, when all the appearances have been so much in your favor. I will tell you. I dread disagreements among those who axe now united (which will be likely to be improved by the adverse party) about the nature of your constitution; I dread the vehement character of your people, whom I fear you may find it more easy to bring on, than to keep within proper bounds after you have put them in motion; I dread the interested refractoriness of your nobles, who cannot be gratified, and who may be unwilling to submit to the requisite sacrifices. And I dread the reveries of your philosophic politicians, who appear in the moment to have great influence, and who, being mere speculatists, may aim at more refinement than suits either with human nature or the composition of your nation.
These, my dear Marquis, are my apprehensions. My wishes for your personal success and that of the cause of liberty are incessant. Be virtuous amidst the seductions of ambition, and you can hardly in any event be unhappy. You are combined with a great and good man; you will anticipate the name of Neckar. I trust you and he will never cease to harmonize.
You will, I presume, have heard before this gets to hand, that I have been appointed to the head of the finances of this country. This event, I am sure, will give you pleasure. In undertaking the task I hazard much, but I thought it an occasion that called upon me to hazard. I have no doubt that the reasonable expectation of the public may be satisfied if I am properly supported by the Legislature, and in this respect I stand at present on the most encouraging footing.
The debt due to France will be among the first objects of my attention. Hitherto it has been from necessity neglected. The session of Congress is now over. It has been exhausted in the organization of the government and in a few laws of immediate urgency respecting navigation and commercial imposts. The subject of the debt, foreign and domestic, has been referred to the next session, which will commence the first Monday in January, with an instruction to me to prepare and report a plan comprehending an adequate provision for the support of the public credit. There were many good reasons for a temporary adjournment.
From this sketch you will perceive that I am not in a situation to address any thing officially to your administration; but I venture to say to you, as my friend, that if the installments of the principal of the debt could be suspended for a few years, it would be a valuable accommodation to the United States. In this suggestion, I contemplate a speedy payment of the arrears of interest now due, and effectual provision for the punctual payment of future interest as it arises. Could an arrangement of this sort meet the approbation of your government, it would be best on every account that the offer should come unsolicited as a fresh mark of good-will.
I wrote you last by Mr. De Warville. I presume you received my letter. As it touched upon some delicate topics I should be glad to know its fate.
P. S.—The latest accounts from France have abated some of my apprehensions. The abdications of privileges patronized by your nobility in the States-General are truly noble, and bespeak a patriotic and magnanimous policy which promises good both to them and their country.[Back to Table of Contents]
to james madison, jr.
October 12, 1789.
I thank you, my dear sir, for the line you were so obliging as to leave for me, and the loan of the book accompanying it, in which I have not made sufficient progress to judge of its merit. I don’t know how it was, but I took it for granted that you had left town earlier than I did; else I should have found an opportunity, after your adjournment, to converse with you on the subjects committed to me by the House of Representatives. It is certainly important that a plan as complete and as unexceptionable as possible should be matured by the next meeting of Congress; and for this purpose it could not but be useful that there should be a comparison and concentration of ideas, of those whose duty leads them to a contemplation of the subject. As I lost the opportunity of a personal communication, may I ask of your friendship, to put to paper and send me your thoughts on such objects as may have occurred to you, for an addition to our revenue, and also as to any modifications of the public debt, which could be made consistent with good faith—the interest of the public and of the creditors.
In my opinion, in considering plans for the increase of our revenue, the difficulty lies not so much in the want of objects as in prejudice, which may be feared with regard to almost every object. The question is very much, What further taxes will be least unpopular?1[Back to Table of Contents]
- New York,
October 20, 1789.
Agreeably to your desire I sit down to commit a few lines to the post.
Nothing worth particular mention has occurred since your departure, except a report brought by Mr. Keane from South Carolina, that Mr. McGillivray, the Indian chief, has, after a short conference, left our commissioners, declaring that what they suggested was only a repetition of the old story, and inadmissible, or something to that effect. It is added that the Lower Creeks appeared, notwithstanding, willing to go into a treaty, but the Upper ones de clined it. General Knox, who has particularly conversed with Mr. Keane, will doubtless give you a more accurate statement of what he brings. It seems, however, that he has his intelligence at second- or third-hand.
P. S.—I have just seen a letter from a private gentleman of considerable intelligence now in North Carolina, who gives an ill picture of the prospect there, respecting the adoption of the Constitution.[Back to Table of Contents]
to timothy pickering
- Treasury Department
Nov. 19, 1789.
In the estimate laid before Congress at their last sessions, I included as an anticipation of the late Superintendent of Finance the amount of a draft issued by him in your favor on the late Receiver of Taxes for the State of New York, for fifty thousand dollars, no part of which appears to have been paid.
The circumstances attending this anticipation not being sufficiently known by the Legislature, prevented (as I presume) a provision being made for it. It will be therefore necessary for you to inform me particularly of the nature and circumstances attending this anticipation, and particularly whether there are any points respecting the claims under it which give the parties a right to expect payment for them in specie, whilst so many debts in your department appear to have been discharged by certificates.
I wish likewise to know whether any or what part of these claims may have been settled by the different State commissioners, and what mode can be adopted for ascertaining them should the Legislature think proper to make a provision for it.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to col. r. h. harrison2
- New York,
Nov. 27, 1789.
My Dear Friend:
After having labored with you in the common cause of America during the late war, and having learned your value, judge of the pleasure I feel in the prospect of a reunion of efforts in this same cause, for I consider the business of America’s happiness as yet to be done.
In proportion to that sentiment has been my disappointment at learning that you had declined a seat on the bench of the United States. Cannot your determination, my dear friend, be reconsidered?
One of your objections, I think, will be removed; I mean that which relates to the nature of the establishment. Many concur in opinion that its present form is inconvenient, if not impracticable. Should an alteration take place, your other objection will also be removed; for you can then be nearly as much at home as you are now.
If it is possible, my dear Harrison, give yourself to us. We want men like you. They are rare at all times. Adieu.[Back to Table of Contents]
to henry lee1
- New York,
December 1, 1789.
My Dear Friend:
I have received your letter of the 16th inst. I am sure you are sincere when you say that you would not subject me to an impropriety; nor do I know that there would be any in my answering your queries. But you remember the saying with regard to Caesar’s wife. I think the spirit of it applicable to every man concerned in the administration of the finance of a country. With respect to the conduct of such men, suspicion is ever eagle-eyed. And the most innocent things are apt to be misinterpreted.
Be assured of the affection and friendship of, etc.[Back to Table of Contents]
to william duer
While I truly regret, my dear friend, that the necessity of your situation compels you to relinquish a station1 in which public and personal considerations combine to induce me to wish your continuance, I cannot but be sensible of the force of the motives by which you are determined. And I interest myself in your happiness too sincerely not to acquiesce in whatever may redound to your advantage. I confess, too, that upon reflection I cannot help thinking you have decided rightly.
I count with confidence on your future friendship, as you may on mine.
An engagement at the President’s will not let me meet you at dinner, but I shall be happy to see you in the evening. Adieu. God bless you, and give you the success for which you will always have my warmest wishes.[Back to Table of Contents]
to Ædanus burke1
- New York,
April 1, 1790.
I have been informed that in the House of Representatives yesterday, you made use of some very harsh expressions in relation to me.
As I cannot but ascribe so unprovoked an attack to misapprehension or misrepresentation, I have concluded to send you an extract from the eulogium pronounced by me on Gen. Greene, of the part to which alone your animadversions could relate.
It is in these words:
“From the heights of Monmouth I might lead you to the plains of Springfield, there to behold the veteran Knyphaussen, at the head of a veteran army, baffled and almost beaten by a general without an army, aided—or rather embarrassed—by small fugitive bodies of volunteer militia, the mimicry of soldiership.”
From this you will perceive that the epithets to which you have taken exception are neither applicable to the militia of South Carolina in particular, nor to militia in general, but merely to “small fugitive bodies of volunteer militia.”
Having thus, sir, stated the matter in its true light, it remains for you to judge what conduct, in consequence of the explanation, will be proper on your part.2[Back to Table of Contents]
to timothy pickering
- New York,
May 13, 1790.
The offer of your service as successor to Mr. Duer reached me in due time.
I can with truth assure you that you were one of a very small number who held a competition in my judgment, and that had personal considerations alone influenced me, I could with difficulty have preferred another. Reasons of a peculiar nature, however, have determined my choice towards Mr. Tench Coxe, who to great industry and very good talents adds an extensive theoretical and practical knowledge of trade.
Allow me to say that, knowing as I now do your views to public life, I shall, from conviction of your worth, take pleasure in promoting them—and I hope an opportunity will not be long wanting.1[Back to Table of Contents]
- Treasury Department,
Sept. 18, 1790.
Mr. Justin Foote has delivered at this office a commission from the President of the United States, vesting you with the office of Surveyor of the Port of Winton in North Carolina. This gentleman informed me that he was not charged with any letter of resignation from you, but stated the substance of your verbal communication to him at the time.
Passing over the obligation of every good citizen to deport himself with due respect to the Chief Magistrate, and especially of those to whom he and the Senate may have previously given indications of confidence, which I am persuaded you would not intentionally deviate from, I beg leave to observe that questions may be raised whether the return of a commission is all that is requisite from gentlemen who decline an appointment to a public trust. Under these circumstances, I find myself constrained to request that you will make known to the President, in a regular way, your intentions as to your late appointment.[Back to Table of Contents]
- New York,
September 21, 1790.
Doctor Craigie has communicated to me a letter from Mr. Daniel Parker to him, dated London, the 12th of July, which mentions that he had just seen Mr. De Miranda, who had recently conversed with the Marquis del Campo, from whom he had learnt that the Court of Spain had acceded to our right of navigating the Mississippi.
Col. Smith has also read to me a passage out of another letter of the 6th of July, which mentions that orders had been sent to the Viceroy of Mexico and the Governor of New Orleans not to interrupt the passage of vessels of the United States through that river.
It is probable that other communications will have ascertained to you whether there be any and what foundation for this intelligence; but I have thought it advisable, notwithstanding, to impart it to you.
The reports from Europe favor more and more the idea of peace. They are, however, not conclusive, and not entirely correspondent.
Captain Watson, of the ship New York, who left London the 28th of July, and Torbay the 16th or 17th of August, informs that the evening preceding her departure from Torbay he was informed by different officers of the fleet that peace between Britain and Spain had taken place, and had been notified by Mr. Pitt in a letter to the Lord Mayor of London, of which an account had arrived that evening. He had, however, seen no papers concerning the account, and the press of seamen had continued down to the same evening.
On the other hand, Captain Hunter, of the ship George, who left St. Andero the 8th of August, affirms that vigorous preparations for war were still going on at that port.[Back to Table of Contents]
- New York,
September 29, 1790.
I have been duly honored with your two letters of the 18th and 20th of September.
My opinion on a certain subject has been forwarded, and I hope will ere this have come to hand.
Inclosed you will be pleased to receive a list of such characters as, from the documents furnished by Mr. Lear, from my inquiries, and from the intimations contained in your letter of the 20th, appear to stand, upon the whole, fairest for the command of the revenue boats, except for the stations of North Carolina and Georgia concerning which there is no satisfactory information.
Captain Montgomery is said to have, on some accounts, greater pretensions to respectability than Captain Roach (though both are represented to be men of merit), and something like claim to preference from situation.
Mr. Gross is submitted on the recommendation of Captain Barney, who mentions favorably both him and a Mr. Daniel Porter, naming Gross first, but without expressing a preference of either.
The Vice-President put into my hand a day or two ago the inclosed letters concerning Captain Lyde, but as Williams, who is recommended by Governor Hancock, is also warmly recommended by General Lincoln, the evidence in his favor may be deemed to preponderate.
The manifest expediency of the previous nomination or appointment of the persons who are to command the boats to oversee the building and equipping of them will suspend the further execution of the business till your pleasure as to persons shall be signified.
The subaltern officers can be appointed at greater leisure, for which purpose I am collecting information, as I am also doing in respect to commanders for the two boats destined for North Carolina and Georgia; but I presume the others need not be delayed on this account.
P. S.—The British packet is just arrived. The rumor is, that the declarations in the inclosed paper were regarded as the prelude of peace; but that the matter was not considered as finished, and, accordingly, the press of seamen had continued with as much vivacity as before. In the letter from the Minister to the Lord Mayor, these declarations seemed to be regarded in the above-mentioned light. The letter says, the negotiators were about to proceed to the discussion of the other matters in dispute with a view to a definite arrangement.[Back to Table of Contents]
- New York,
October 17, 1790.
I had the honor of receiving your letter of the loth inst. by the last post. It is certainly very possible, that motives different from the one avowed may have produced a certain communication; and in matters of such a nature it is not only allowable, but the dictate of prudence, to receive suggestions with peculiar caution.
A British packet arrived yesterday. The accounts she brings are all of a warlike aspect. I have extracted from an English paper the inclosed decree of the National Assembly of France; which, though of a qualified tenor, looks pretty directly towards the eventual supporting of Spain. The English papers hold it up as a decisive indication of a disposition to do so. And it is said, in some of the letters which have been received, that positive orders have been sent to Lord Howe to fight if he can find an opportunity. The papers announce a second fleet of fifteen sail of the line ready to rendezvous at Portsmouth, to be under the command of Admiral Hood. Their destination unknown.
It is also mentioned that the Dutch fleet had returned to the Texel, the Duke of Leeds having previously made a journey for an interview with the Dutch admiral. This very mysterious circumstance is wholly unexplained.
A certain gentleman who called on me to-day, informed me that a packet had sailed the 16th of August for Quebec, in which went passenger General Clarke. He added that the rumor in England was, that Sir Guy Carleton was to return in her. He made no other communication.
The inclosed letter came to hand to-day. I have had no opportunity of making any inquiry concerning the person recommended in it. If I can obtain any additional lights, they shall be made known without delay.
The object suggested in your letter as preparatory to the meeting of the Legislature shall engage my particular attention.
The papers of the Department of State and the Treasury, and of the commissioners for settling accounts, are on their way to Philadelphia. On the loth, I propose with my family to set out for the same place.[Back to Table of Contents]
to john jay
November 13, 1790.
My Dear Sir:
I enclose you copies of two resolutions which have passed the House of Representatives of Virginia. Others had been proposed and disagreed to. But the war was still going on. A spirited remonstrance to Congress is talked of. This is the first symptom of a spirit which must either be killed, or it will kill the Constitution of the United States. I send the resolutions to you, that it may be considered what ought to be done. Ought not the collective weight of the different parts of the government to be employed in exploding the principles they contain? This question arises out of sudden and undigested thought.1[Back to Table of Contents]
December 2, 1790.
The day before yesterday I received a letter from Mr. Woodbury Langdon, declining the appointment offered him. There was a letter with it for you which I immediately forwarded.
Since that time I have conversed with Mr. Langdon, and have heard from Mr. Gilman; the former is warm in his recommendation of Mr. Keith Spence; he states that his insolvency was owing to the loss of a valuable ship and cargo, and , was attended with the most honorable circumstances; that an immediate adjustment with the creditors took place to their entire satisfaction; that the deficiency was only £1,000, which he considers as remitted; that Mr. Spence was in partnership with Mr. Sherbume; that they have both been since in good business, and are now more than able to pay whatever they may owe; that the failure happened some years ago; that Mr. Spence, though a native of Scotland, came early to this country—is a man of education and abilities, well known and respected—a firm friend to the Revolution and to the National Government—married to a lady of New Hampshire, with whom he has several children. He showed me a letter from Mr. Spence, which gives a favorable impression of his modesty and capacity.
Mr. Gilman talks of Mr. Spence as a man not generally known, and who, being by birth a foreigner, is not as acceptable as a native to the people of that country; that his attachment to the American cause was rather ambiguous; that he married the daughter of a person who is now in office in the Island of Bermuda, and lately made a visit there; that his insolvency would throw a shade on his appointment in the public opinion.
He, on the other hand, warmly recommended a Mr. William Gardiner, the present Treasurer of New Hampshire; speaks decidedly of his good character, and abilities as a man of business, and of his general good standing in the State.
Mr. Langdon admits Mr. Gardiner to be a good and a qualified man—says he was formerly his first clerk, but affirms that Mr. Spence has greatly the superiority in point of qualification—hints at an arrangement between Mr. Gardiner and Mr. Gilman, the late Loan Officer, by which Mr. Gilman expects to succeed to the office of Treasurer, if the other obtains that of Commissioner of Loans.
Thus stands my information as far as it goes; I conjecture, on the whole, that Mr. Spence is an unexceptionable man, in every respect but that of his late insolvency, and that he is probably better qualified than Mr. Gardiner, or, in other words, a man of more ability. That, nevertheless, Mr. Gardiner is qualified for the office, and in other respects an eligible person. Perhaps the appointment of him will be, upon the whole, a safer one—freer from hazard of imputation of any kind.
You are, I presume, not unapprised of a Langdon and Gilman party in New Hampshire. Though it is desirable this business should be finished, yet if it be supposed likely that the arrival of the Eastern members will afford any new light, a few days’ delay cannot be very important.[Back to Table of Contents]
to william seton1
January 18, 1791.
My Dear Sir:
I have learnt with infinite pain the circumstances of a new bank having started up in your city. Its effects cannot but be in every way pernicious. These extravagant sallies of speculation do injury to the government and to the whole system of public credit, by disgusting all sober citizens and giving a wild air to every thing. ’t is impossible but that three great banks in one city must raise such a mass of artificial credit as must endanger every one of them, and do harm in every view.
I sincerely hope that the Bank of New York will listen to no coalition with this newly engendered monster; a better alliance, I am strongly persuaded, will be brought about for it, and the joint force of two solid institutions will, without effort or violence, remove the excrescence which has just appeared, and which I consider as a dangerous tumor in your political and commercial economy.
I express myself in these strong terms to you confidentially, not that I have any objection to my opinion being known as to the nature and tendency of the thing.
April 10, 1791.
Your letter of the 15th of March duly came to hand, though not till after the arrangement for the execution of the act mentioned in your letter had been made.
I wish you not to consider it as a mere compliment, when I say that the light in which your character stands could not fail to have brought you into view in that arrangement, and could you be minutely acquainted with every circumstance that in the President’s mind inclined the balance a different way, you would find no reason to be dissatisfied with the estimation in which you have been held. You are well aware that in a comparison of the pretensions of men of merit, collateral considerations may be often justly allowed to turn the scale.
Suffer me to add that in the course of those future opportunities which may be expected to occur, it would give me a pleasure, as far as may be in my power, to be instrumental in furnishing you with a proper occasion for the exercise of your talents and zeal in the service of the national government.[Back to Table of Contents]
April 10, 1791.
* * * It is to be lamented that our system is such as still to leave the public peace of the Union at the mercy of each State government. This is not only the case as it regards direct interferences, but as it regards the inability of the national government, in many particulars, to take those direct measures for carrying into execution its views and engagements which exigencies require. For example: a party comes from a county of Virginia into Pennsylvania and wantonly murders some friendly Indians. The national government, instead of having power to apprehend murderers and bring them to justice, is obliged to make a representation to that of Pennsylvania; that of Pennsylvania again is to make a representation to that of Virginia. And whether the murderers shall be brought to justice at all, must depend upon the particular policy and energy and good disposition of two State governments and the efficacy of the provisions of their respective laws; and the security of other States, and the money of all, are at the discretion of one. These things require a remedy.[Back to Table of Contents]
April 17, 1791.
You will probably recollect that previous to your departure from this place, anticipating the event which has taken place with regard to the death of Mr. Everleigh, I took the liberty to mention to you that Mr. Wolcott, the present Auditor, would be in every respect worthy of your consideration as his successor in office.
Now that the event has happened, a concern as anxious as it was natural for the success of the department, united with a sentiment of justice towards Mr. Wolcott, leads me to a repetition of that idea. This gentleman’s conduct in the station he now fills has been that of an excellent officer. It has not only been good, but distinguished. It has combined all the requisites which can be desired: moderation with firmness, liberality with exactness, indefatigable industry with an accurate and sound discernment, a thorough knowledge of business, and a remarkable spirit of order and arrangement. Indeed, I ought to say that I owe very much of whatever success may have attended the merely executive operations of the department to Mr. Wolcott; and I do not fear to commit myself when I add that he possesses in an eminent degree all the qualifications desirable in a Comptroller of the Treasury—that it is scarcely possible to find a man in the United States more competent to the duties of that station than himself; few who could be equally so. It may be truly said of him that he is a man of rare merit, and I have good evidence that he has been viewed in this light by the members of Congress extensively from different quarters of the Union, and is so considered by all that part of the public who have had opportunities of witnessing his conduct.
The immediate relation, too, which his present situation bears to that of Comptroller is a strong argument in his favor. Though a regular gradation of office is not admissible in a strict sense in regard to offices of a civil nature, and is wholly inapplicable to those of the first rank (such as the heads of the great executive departments), yet a certain regard to the relation which one situation bears to another is consonant with the natural ideas of justice, and is recommended by powerful considerations of policy. The expectation of promotion in civil as in military life is a great stimulus to virtuous exertion, while examples of unrewarded exertion, supported by talent and qualification, are proportionable discour agements. Where they do not produce resignations they leave men dissatisfied, and a dissatisfied man seldom does his duty well.
In a government like ours, where pecuniary compensations are moderate, the principle of gradual advancement as a reward for good conduct is perhaps more necessary to be attended to than in others where offices are more lucrative. By due attention to it it will operate as a means to secure respectable men for offices of inferior emolument and consequence.
In addition to the rest, Mr. Wolcott’s experience in this particular line pleads powerfully in his favor. This experience may be dated back to his office of Comptroller of the State of Connecticut, and has been perfected by practice in his present place.
A question may perhaps, sir, arise in your mind, whether some inconvenience may not attend his removal from his present office. I am of opinion that no sensible inconvenience will be felt on this score, since it will be easy for him as Comptroller, who is the immediate superior of the Auditor, to form any man of business for the office he will leave, in a short period of time. More inconvenience would be felt by the introduction of a Comptroller not in the immediate train of the business.
Besides this, it may be observed that a degree of inconvenience on this score cannot be deemed an obstacle, but upon the principle which would bar the progress of merit from one station to another.
On this point of inconvenience a reflection occurs, which I think I ought not to suppress. Mr. Wolcott is a man of sensibility, not unconscious of his own value, and he doubtless must believe that he has pretensions from situation to the office. Should another be appointed, and he resign, the derangement of the department would truly be distressing to the public service.
In suggesting thus particularly the reasons which in my mind operate in favor of Mr. Wolcott, I am influenced by information that other characters will be brought to your view by weighty advocates, and as I think it more than possible that Mr. Wolcott may not be mentioned to you by any other person than myself, I feel it a duty arising out of my situation in the department, to bear my full and explicit testimony to his worth, confident that he will justify by every kind of substantial merit any mark of your approbation which he may receive.
I trust, sir, that in thus freely disclosing my sentiments to you, you will be persuaded that I only yield to the suggestions of an honest zeal for the public good, and of a firm conviction that the prosperity of the department under my particular care (one so interesting to the aggregate movements of the government) will be best promoted by transferring the present Auditor to the office of Comptroller of the Treasury.[Back to Table of Contents]
June 19, 1791.
I have been duly honored with your letter of the 13th inst., from Mount Vernon; and, according to your desire have informed Mr. Wolcott of your intention to appoint him Comptroller. This appointment gives me particular pleasure, as I am confident it will be a great and real improvement in the state of the Treasury Department. There can no material inconvenience attend the postponing a decision concerning the future Auditor till your arrival in this city.
I am very happy to learn that the circumstances of your journey have been in all respects so favorable. It has certainly been a particularly fortunate one, and I doubt not it will have been of real utility.
There is nothing which can be said to be new here worth communicating, except generally that all my accounts from Europe, both private and official, concur in proving that the impressions now entertained of our government and its affairs (I may say) throughout that quarter of the globe, are of a nature the most flattering and pleasing.[Back to Table of Contents]
to benjamin goodhue1
June 30, 1791.
My Dear Sir:
As Mr. Cone, who, I think, informed me he had a letter from you on the same subject, undertook to say all that could be said in relation to Mr. Gray’s affair, I permitted the hurry of business to keep me silent. Nothing further concerning the affair has since come to me, so that I am wholly ignorant what turn it may have taken. It must have given you pleasure to learn how much the Constitution of the United States, and the measures under it, in which you have had so considerable an agency, have contributed to raise this country in the estimation of Europe. According to the accounts received here, the change which has been wrought in the opinion of that part of the world respecting the United States is almost wonderful: The British Cabinet wish to be thought disposed to enter into amicable and liberal arrangements with us. They had appointed Mr. Elliott, who, on private considerations, had declined; and it is affirmed from pretty good, though not decisive authority, that they have substituted a Mr. Hammond, and that his arrival may shortly be expected. I would not warrant the issue, but if some liberal arrangement with Great Britain should ensue, it will have a prodigious effect upon the conduct of some other parts of Europe. It is, however, most wise for us to depend as little as possible upon European caprice, and to exert ourselves to the utmost to unfold and improve every domestic resource.
In all appearance, the subscriptions to the Bank of the United States will proceed with astonishing rapidity. It will not be surprising if a week completes them.[Back to Table of Contents]
to mrs. martha walker
July 2, 1791.
Mr. Ames1 has conveyed to me your letter of the 9th of May.
Hitherto it has not been in my power to consider the merits of your application to Congress, but you may be assured of its being done so as to admit of a report at the commencement of the ensuing session.
While I dare not encourage any expectation, and while my conduct must be determined by my sense of official propriety and duty, I may with great truth say that I shall enter into the examination with every prepossession which can be inspired by favorable impression of personal merit, and by a sympathetic participation in the distresses of a lady as deserving as unfortunate.[Back to Table of Contents]
to rufus ring
July 8, 1791.
My Dear Sir:
I received your letter on a certain subject, and was obliged by it. But there was nothing practicable by way of remedy.
The thing, as it has turned out, though good in the main, has certainly some ill sides. There have also been faults in the detail, which are not favorable to complete satisfaction. But what shall we do? ’t is the lot of every thing human to mingle a portion of evil with the good.
The President, as you will have seen, has returned. His journey has done good, as it regards his own impressions. He is persuaded that the dispositions of the Southern people are good, and that certain pictures which have been drawn have been strongly colored by the imagination of the drawers.
We have just heard from the Westward, but of no event of importance. Things are said to have been in good preparation; the people of Kentucky wonderfully pleased with the government; and Scot, with a corps of ardent volunteers, on their route to demolish every savage, man, woman, and child.
On Tuesday next I expect to leave this for New York, with Mrs. Hamilton.[Back to Table of Contents]
to rufus ring
August 7, 1791.
Your letter of Monday evening has a good deal tranquillized me. I am glad to learn that the mischiefs from the over-use of scrip are not likely to be very extensive.
I observe what you say respecting the quotation of my opinion. I was not unaware of the delicacy of giving any, and was sufficiently reserved until I perceived the extreme to which bank scrip, and with it other stock, was tending. But when I saw this I thought it advisable to speak out—for a bubble connected with any operation is, of all the enemies I have to fear, in my judgment the most formidable; and not only not to promote, but, as far as depends on me, to counteract, delusions, appears to me to be the only secure foundation on which to stand. I thought it expedient, therefore, to risk some thing in contributing to dissolve the charm. But I find that I have been misquoted. Speaking of sales on time at seventy-four shillings for 6 per cent., etc., I think it probable I may have intimated an opinion that they went faster than could be supported. But it is untrue that I have given as a standard prices below those of the market, as mentioned by you. On the contrary, my standard, on pretty mature reflection, has been and is nearly as follows:
|6 per cents||.||.||.||.||.||22|
|3 per cents||.||.||.||.||.||12|
I proceed on the idea of 5 per cent. interest—taking at the same time into calculation the partial irredeemability of the 6 per cents.
I give you my standard, that you may be able if necessary to contradict insinuations of an estimation on my part short of that standard—for the purpose of depressing the funds.[Back to Table of Contents]
to timothy pickering
Aug. 13, 1791.
Some investigations in which I am engaged induce a wish to be able to form as accurate an idea as can be obtained of the usual product in proportion to the value of cultivated lands in different parts of the United States.
As I am persuaded no person can better assist me in this object than yourself, I take the liberty to ask the favor of your assistance.
It has occurred to me that if the actual product on cultivated farms of middling quality could be ascertained with tolerable precision, it might afford as good a rule by which to judge as the nature of the thing admits of.
With this view I have prepared a form with a number of columns under heads specifying the different kinds of produce usual in your quarter, in order that they may be filled in each case according to the fact and as the nature of each head shall require.
There are besides some additional columns which respect the total value of the farm and the different kinds of land of which it consists.
The value of the farm must be determined not by what it would fetch in cash on a forced or sudden sale, but by what it would sell for at a reasonable and usual credit, or perhaps by what the opinion of the neighborhood would compute to be its true value.
The quantity of each kind of land must conform to the actual quantity in cultivation at the time for which the product is taken.
It is submitted to your judgment, according to circumstances, whether to determine the product by the average of a series of years, three or more, or by what has been considered as a year of middling fertility.
The price ought to express the value of each article on the farm. Perhaps to determine this there is no better rule than to deduct the expense of transportation, from the price at the nearest usual market. The high price of an extraordinary year would not be a proper criterion; but that which is deemed by intelligent and reasonable farmers a good saving price.
If not inconvenient to you to execute my present request, you will add to the favor by explaining in each case the rule by which you have proceeded; and if it would not be attended with too much trouble, the extension of the inquiry to two or three different farms would be satisfactory.
In a matter with which I am not very familiar, it is possible I may have omitted circumstances of importance to the object of my inquiry. The supplying of such omissions will be particularly acceptable.
As whatever comes from the Treasury is apt to be suspected of having reference to some scheme of taxation, it is my wish that the knowledge of this request may be confined to yourself. And I think it not amiss to add that in truth it has not the most remote reference to any such purpose.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to william seton
- Treasury Department,
Aug. 15, 1791.
Inclosed is a resolution of the Trustees of the Sinking Fund, appropriating a certain sum for the purchase of public debt, within certain limits therein specified; in consequence of that resolution I have concluded to apply one hundred and fifty thousand dollars towards purchases in the city of New York, and to ask you to undertake the execution of the business. In thus forbearing to employ some officer of the United States, and having recourse to your aid, I am governed by the consideration that your situation would lead to such an execution of the business as might at the same time best consist with the accommodation of the Bank of New York.
Inclosed is a letter to the directors of the bank, requesting them to pay to you the above-mentioned sum. You will, of course, however, only avail yourself of this authority in proportion to the actual purchases you shall make, as you will please to advise me weekly of such as you may be able to effect. The Trustees have never yet determined on any allowance to the persons who have been employed in similar purchases, nor is it clear how much is in their power on this point. I can therefore only say that the same rule will govern in your case as in that of others.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to william seton
Aug. 16, 1791.
I send you herewith an official letter; this private one I write as explanatory of it. I hardly expect that you will be able to procure the debt within the limits prescribed, and yet I do not know what effect the imprudent speculations in bank scrip may produce. A principal object with me is to keep the stock from falling too low in case the embarrassinents of the dealers should lead to sacrifices; whence you will infer that it is not my wish that the purchases should be below the prescribed limits, yet if such should unfortunately be the state of the market, it must of course govern. The limits assigned for the purchases of 3-per-cents and deferred debt are founded on a calculation of the government rate of interest being 5 per cent. The same rule has not been extended to the stock bearing an immediate interest of 6 per cent., because the government have a right to redeem it at par in certain proportions; and though to individual purchasers it is worth more than par, because a part only can be redeemed, yet it is not at present the interest of the government to give more than par for it, because of the right to redeem a part. Indeed, the law limits the commissioners in this particular. You will recollect that the act requires that the purchases should be made openly. This has been construed to mean by a known agent for the public. When you make a purchase, therefore, it will be proper that it should be understood that it is on account of the United States, but this need not precede the purchase; and it will be best that there should be no unnecessary demonstration, lest it should raise hopes beyond what will be realized.
P. S.—If the prices of stocks should exceed the prescribed limits, you may retain the letter to the directors. If there are any gentlemen who support the funds and others who depress them, I shall be pleased that your purchases may aid the former,—this in great confidence.[Back to Table of Contents]
to william duer
Aug. 17, 1791.
My Dear Friend:
I have received your two letters of the 12th and 10th.
The subscription-book for the Manufacturing Society did not remain with me nor with either of the two gentlemen who came on with me. Is it with neither of those who accompanied you? If it is not, it must have been left at Brunswick, and you will do well to write to some trusty person there to look it up and send it to you. I am impatient for the alterations which were agreed upon, and a list of the subscribers.
La Roche may go to Scioto, if he can be back in the time you mention.
I fear that in the hurry of writing my letter on the subject of bank scrip, I must have expressed myself more strongly than was intended.
The conversation here was: “Bank scrip is getting so high as to become a bubble,” in one breath; in another: “’t is a South-Sea dream”; in a third: “There is a combination of knowing ones at New York to raise it as high as possible by fictitious purchases, in order to take in the credulous and ignorant”; in another: “Duer, Constable, and some others are mounting the balloon as fast as possible. If it don’t soon burst, thousands will rue it,” etc., etc.
As to myself, my friend, I think I know you too well to suppose you capable of such views as were implied in those innuendoes, or to harbor the most distant thought that you could wander from the path either of public good or private integrity. But I will honestly own I had serious fears for you—for your purse and for your reputation; and with an anxiety for both, I wrote to you in earnest terms. You are sanguine, my friend. You ought to be aware of it yourself and to be on your guard against the propensity. I feared lest it might carry you further than was consistent either with your own safety or the public good. My friendship for you and my concern for the public cause were both alarmed. If the infatuation had continued progressive, and any extensive mischiefs had ensued, you would certainly have had a large portion of the blame. Conscious of this I wrote to you in all the earnestness of apprehensive friendship.
I do not widely differ from you about the real value of bank scrip. I should rather call it about 190, to be within bounds, with hopes of better things, and I sincerely wish you may be able to support it at what you mention. The acquisition of too much of it by foreigners will certainly be an evil.[Back to Table of Contents]
to william seton
- Treasury Department,
Aug. 22, 1791.
I have to acknowledge the receipt of yours of the 18th. The transfer of the stock which you have purchased on account of the United States must be made to the Vice-President, the Chief-Justice, theSecretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of State, and the Attorney-General for the time being.
In all future purchases, it will be most convenient to have the stock in the first instance transferred as here directed.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to william seton
- Treasury Department,
Sept. 7, 1791.
I write herewith to the directors of the Bank of New York to advance you a further sum of fifty thousand dollars towards purchases of the public debt on account of the United States, on the same principles with the sum heretofore advanced to you for the like purpose.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to the president, directors, etc., of the bank of new york
- Treasury Department,
Sept. 7, 1791.
I request you to furnish the cashier of your bank with the further sum of fifty thousand dollars, to be by him applied towards purchases of the public debts on account of the United States.
P. S.—A warrant will issue to-morrow to cover the 150,000 dollars already advanced for the same purpose.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to william seton
September 7, 1791.
You will find by the letter herewith that you are furnished with a further sum of 50,000 dollars for purchases. I wish I could have gone farther, but my hands are tied by the want of a majority of the Trustees being present, Mr. Jefferson being just gone to Virginia. The $50,000 now authorized, and the sum appropriated here for the same purpose, com plete what has as yet been determined to be applied.
You may, however, make it known that the treasurer is purchasing here, etc.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to william seton
September 8, 1791.
I wrote you a private letter last evening, which went by a private opportunity. The principal object was to inform you that I could not exceed the sum now directed to be advanced for want of authority, the present $50,000 completing the sum heretofore appropriated by the Trustees, and there not being here a sufficient number for a Board; that purchases by the Treasurer were going on here——1[Back to Table of Contents]
to a friend
September 30, 1791.
If you can conveniently let me have twenty dollars for a few days, be so good as to send it by bearer. I have just put myself out of cash by payment of Major L‘Enfant’s bill.1[Back to Table of Contents]
Oct. 11, 1791.
Lord Wycomb having mentioned to me his intentions to pay you his respects at Mount Vernon, I beg your permission to present him to you.
The personal acquirements and permits of his lordship conspire, with a consideration for the friendly dispositions and liberal policy of his father, the Marquis of Lansdowne, towards this country, to constitute a claim in his favor to cordial notice.[Back to Table of Contents]
to general knox
October 17, 1791.
The following are the particulars in the President’s letter which he expects you to prepare.
Expeditions against the Indians. Every pacific measure was previously tried to produce accord and avoid expense.
More pointed laws, with penalties to restrain our own people; and this and good faith may produce tranquillity.
Treaties with Cherokees and Six Nations, and reasons.
I annex to the first the hints in the President’s letter.
You will, of course, send any other things that occur on any point1 .[Back to Table of Contents]
to william seton
November 25, 1791.
My Dear Sir:
I seize the first moment of leisure to answer your letter of the 21st inst. Strange as it may appear to you, it is not more strange than true that the whole affair of branches was begun, continued, and ended, not only without my participation, but against my judgment.
When I Say against my judgment, you will not understand that my opinion was given and overruled, for I never was consulted; but that the steps taken were contrary to my private opinion of the course which ought to have been pursued.
I am sensible of the inconveniences to be apprehended, and I regret them, but I do not know that it will be in my power to avert them.
Ultimately it will be incumbent on me to place the public funds in the keeping of the branch; but it may be depended upon that I shall precipitate nothing, but shall so conduct the transfer as not to embarrass or distress your institution. I have not time to say more at present, except that if there are finally to be two institutions, my regard for you makes me wish you may feel yourself at liberty to take your fortune with the branch which must preponderate.[Back to Table of Contents]
to philip hamilton1
Dec. 5, 1791.
I received with great pleasure, my dear Philip, the letter which you wrote me last week. Your mamma and myself were very happy to learn that you are pleased with your situation, and content to stay as long as shall be thought best for you. We hope and believe that nothing will happen to alter this disposition. Your master also informs me that you recited a lesson the first day you began, very much to his satisfaction. I expect every letter from him will give me a fresh proof of your progress, for I know you can do a great deal if you please, and I am sure you have too much spirit not to exert yourself that you may make us every day more and more proud of you. You remember that I engaged to send for you next Saturday, and I will do it, unless you request me to put it off, for a promise must never be broken, and I never will make you one which I will not fill as far as I am able; but it has occurred tome that the Christmas holidays are near at hand, and I suppose your school will then break up for a few days and give you an opportunity of coming to stay with us for a longer time than if you should come on Saturday. Will it not be best, therefore, to put off your journey till the holidays? But determine as you like best, and let me know what will be most pleasing to you. A good night to my darling son.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to nicholas gouverneur2
Mr. B. last evening delivered me your letter, enclosing a copy of your correspondence with Mr. Lewis. In one other respect I feel myself painfully situated, having received a favorable impression of your character. I am sorry to observe any thing to have come from you which I am obliged to consider as exceptionable. Your second letter to Mr. Lewis contains a general, and of course an unjustifiable reflection on the profession to which I belong, and of a nature to put it out of my power to render you any service in the line of that profession. I really believe that you did not attend to the full force of the expression when you tell Mr. Lewis, “ Attorneys like to make the most of their bills of cost”; but it contains in it other insinuations which cannot be pleasing to any man in the profession, and which must oblige any one that has the proper delicacy to decline the business of a person who professedly entertains such an idea of the conduct of this profession. I make allowance for your feelings when you wrote that letter, and am therefore reluctantly drawn into these observations1 .[Back to Table of Contents]
to gulian verplanck and others
Jan. 15, 1792.
The mark of esteem on the part of fellow-citizens, to whom I am attached by so many ties, which is announced in your letter Of 29th of December, is entitled to my affectionate acknowledgments.
I shall cheerfully obey their wish as far as respects the taking of my portrait, but I ask that they will permit it to appear unconnected with any incident of my political life. The simple representation of their fellow-citizen and friend will best accord with my feelings.[Back to Table of Contents]
to william seton
Jan. 24, 1792.
My Dear Sir:
I feel great satisfaction in knowing from yourself that your institution rejects the idea of a coalition with the new project, or rather hydra of projects.
I shall labor to give what has taken place a turn favorable to another union, the propriety of which is, as you say, clearly illustrated by the present state of things. It is my wish that the Bank of New York may, by all means, continue to receive deposits from the Collector in the paper of the Bank of the United States, and that they may also receive payment for the Dutch bills in the same paper. This paper may either be remitted to the Treasurer, or remain in the bank, as itself shall deem most expedient. I have explicitly directed the Treasurer to forbear drawing on the Bank of New York without special direction from me. And my intention is to leave you in possession of all the money you have or may receive till I am assured that the present storm is effectually weathered.
Everybody here sees the propriety of your having refused the paper of the Bank of the United States in such a crisis of your affairs. Be confidential with me; if you are pressed, whatever support may be in my power shall be afforded. I consider the public interest as materially involved in aiding a valuable institution like yours to withstand the attacks of a confederated host of frantic and, I fear, in too many instances, unprincipled gamblers.
Adieu. Heaven take care of good men and good views![Back to Table of Contents]
to william duer1
March 14, 1792.
My Dear Duer:
Your letter of the 11th got to hand this day. I am affected beyond measure at its contents, especially as it was too late to have any influence upon the event you were apprehensive of, Mr. Wolcott’s instructions having gone off yesterday.
I trust, however, the alternative which they present to the attorney of the , and the discretion he will use in managing the affair, will enable you to avoid any pernicious éclat, if your affairs are otherwise retrievable.
Be this as it may, act with fortitude and honor. If you cannot reasonably hope for a favorable extrication, do not plunge deeper. Have the courage to make a full stop. Take all the care you can in the first place of institutions of public utility, and in the next of all fair creditors.
God bless you, and take care of you and your family. I have experienced all the bitterness of soul on your account which a warm attachment can inspire. I will not now pain you with any wise remarks, though if you recover the present stroke, I shall take great liberties with you. Assure yourself, in good and bad fortune, of my sincere friendship and affection.[Back to Table of Contents]
to william seton
March 25, 1792.
If six per cents. should sink below par, you may purchase on account of the United States at par to the extent of fifty thousand dollars. You will not, however, declare on whose account you act, because, though there is, as to a purchase on that principle, no difference of opinion among the trustees, the thing is not formally arranged, and this is Sunday.
It will be very probably, conjectured that you appear for the public, and the conjecture may be left to have its course, but without confession. The purchase ought, in the present state of things, to be at auction, and not till to-morrow evening. But if the purchase at auction will not tend as well to the purpose of relief as a different mode, it may be departed from; the usual note must be made of persons, time, etc. You will consider whether done all at once, or a part now and a part then, will best answer the purpose; in the state of this market the latter mode is found preferable. I have just received a letter from Mr. Short, our minister resident, dated Amsterdam, 28th December, by which he informs me that he has effected a loan for three millions of florins at four per cent. interest, on account of the United States. This may be announced; and as, in the present moment of suspicion, some minds may be disposed to consider the thing as a mere expedient to support the stocks, I pledge my honor for its exact truth. Why then so much despondency among the holders of our stock? When foreigners lend the United States at four per cent., will they not purchase here upon a similar scale, making reasonable allowance for expense of agency, etc.? Why then do individuals part with so good a property so much below its value? Does Duer’s failure affect the solidity of the government?
After paying the present quarter’s interest I shall have near a million dollars in cash, and a million more in bonds from the duties of last year. All this is truly so much beforehand. The duties for the current year being fully adequate to the objects of the year, except the further sum of about five hundred thousand dollars for the western expedition, for which the ways and means have been proposed. Is the treasury of Great Britain comparatively in so good a state? Is the nation comparatively so equal to its debt? Why then so much depression? I shall be answered, The immediate necessity for money. But if the banks are forbearing as to the necessity of paying up, cannot the parties give each other mutual credit and avoid so great a press? If there are a few harpies who will not concur in this forbearance, let such be paid and execrated, and let others forbear. The necessity of great sacrifices among your dealers cannot affect the nation, but it may deeply wound the city of New York by a transfer to foreigners and citizens of other States of a large mass of property greatly below its value. The face of your affairs may undergo for a considerable time a serious change. Would not the plan I suggested to you in my last be a means of securing more effectually the debts due to the bank by accepting in part payment the credits on your books?
While I encourage due exertion in the banks, I observe that I hope they will put nothing to risk. No calamity truly public can happen while these institutions remain sound. They must, therefore, not yield too far to the impulse of circumstances.[Back to Table of Contents]
to william seton
April 4, 1792.
The post of to-day brought me a letter from you. I am pained beyond expression at the picture you and others give me of the situation of my fellowcitizens, especially as an ignorance of the extent of the disorder renders it impossible to judge whether any adequate remedy can be applied.
You may apply another 50,000 dollars to purchases at such a time as you judge it can be rendered most useful. The prices may be 20s. for 6 per cents., 12s. for 3 per cents., and 12s. 6d. for deferred. The law and the object require that it should be known you purchase for the public. I shall by the next post send an official authorization.
I have doubt, however, whether it will be best to apply this immediately or wait the happening of the crisis, which I fear is inevitable. If, as is represented, a pretty extensive explosion is to take place, the depression of the funds at such a moment will be in the extreme, and then it may be more important than now to enter the market in force. I can in such a a case without difficulty add a hundred thousand dollars—probably a larger sum. But you, who are on the spot, being best able to calculate consequences, I leave the proper moment of operating to your judgment. To relieve the distressed and support the funds are primary objects. As it may possibly become advisable for the bank to receive payments in stock from embarrassed persons, it may not be amiss that you should know as a guide that there are at this moment orders from a respectable Dutch concern to purchase 6 per cents. at 24s. if bills can be sold at par; of this I have the most unequivocal evidence. This is a proof that foreigners will be willing to give that price. How vexatious that imprudent speculations of individuals should lead to an alienation of the national property at such under-rates as are now given! I presume your greatest embarrassments arise from the contracts to pay and deliver not yet at issue. Is it possible to form any conjecture of their extent?[Back to Table of Contents]
to william seton
April 12, 1792.
I have your letters of the 10th and 11th, and, more to my distress and surprise, I learn by other letters a confirmation of what you apprehended, namely, Mr. Macomb’s failure. This misfortune has, I fear, a long tail to it.
The enclosed, you will perceive, gives you additional latitude. The terms as heretofore for 6 per cents., 20s.; 3 per cents. 12s.; and deferred 12s. 6d.
You must judge of the best mode and manner of applying the sum. The operation here not being ex tensive, I have found it best to eke out my aid. I doubt whether this will answer with you. My reason was to keep up men’s spirits by appearing often, though not much at one time. All is left to you. You will doubtless be cautious in securing your transfer before you pay.[Back to Table of Contents]
to the directors and company of the bank of new york
- Treasury Department,
April 12, 1792.
Since my official letter to you authorizing an advance to your cashier of fifty thousand dollars, to be applied to the purchase of public debt on account of the United States, I have authorized that gentleman to apply for another fifty thousand dollars, and to make the like use of it. I now confirm this direction, and add my desire that he may be furnished with a further sum of fifty thousand dollars, making in the whole one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, the whole for the purpose above mentioned.[Back to Table of Contents]
to william duer
April 22, 1792.
My Dear Duer:
I hoped ere this to have seen you, to have afforded you whatever of aid could have resulted from my advice, after knowing your real situation. But the session protracts itself, and I can scarcely say when it. will finish. Lest the information contained in my last should induce you to postpone an arrangement with your creditors in the hope of speedily having an opportunity of consulting me, I have thought it best to apprise you of the degree of delay which may attend my proposed visit to New York. Indeed, I can hardly flatter myself that my advice could be of any real importance to you.
How are you? How are your family? At a moment of composure I shall be glad to hear from you.
Eliza joins me in, affectionate remembrances to Lady Kitty.1 Farewell.[Back to Table of Contents]
to william seton
- Treasury Department,
May 10, 1792.
I received your letter of the 7th inst., covering an account of stock purchased by you for the United States.
I observe that you have exceeded the sum which was limited by me to the amount of one thousand and ninety-eight dollars and eighty-nine cents; but so small a difference is not very material, and I am willing that the whole should remain on account of the United States.
In order to a winding up of the business, I have now to request that you will, as soon as it can be conveniently done, cause all the stock to be transferred in the names of the trustees as heretofore, and that you will then procure from the commissioner and forward to me the necessary certificates for transferring the stock from the books of the commissioner to those of the treasurer.
You will please to accept of my best acknowledgment for this additional mark of your zeal for the public service, and believe me to be, etc.[Back to Table of Contents]
to william duer
May 23, 1792.
My dear Duer, five minutes ago I received your letter of yesterday. I hasten to express to you my thoughts, as your situation does not permit of delay. I am of opinion that those friends who have lent you their money or security from personal confidence in your honor, and without being interested in the operations in which you may have been engaged, ought to be taken care of absolutely, and preferably to all creditors. In the next place, public institutions ought to be secured. On this point the manufacturing society will claim peculiar regard. I am told the funds of that society have been drawn out of both banks; I trust they are not diverted. The public interest and my reputation are deeply concerned in the matter. Your affairs with the government, as connected with your office as assistant to the Board of Treasury, will deserve your particular attention. Persons of whom you have made actual purchases and whose property has been delivered to you, would stand next after public institutions. But here perhaps some arbitration may be made. It would certainly be desirable to distinguish between the price of stock at the time of purchase and its enhanced price upon time. With regard to contracts merely executory, and in regard to which differences would be to be paid, no stock having been delivered, I postpone claims of this nature to all others. They ought not to interfere with any claim which is founded on value actually given. As to the usurious tribe: these present themselves under different aspects. Are these women, or ignorant people, or trustees of infants? The real principal advanced and legal interest would, in such cases, stand, in my mind, on high ground. The mere veteran usurers may be taken greater liberties with. Their real principal and interest, however, abstracted from usurious accumulation, would stand better than claims constituted wholly by profits from speculative bargains. But the following course deserves consideration: Take care of debts to friends who have aided you by their money or credit disinterestedly, and the public institutions. Assign the rest of your property for the benefit of creditors generally. The law will do the rest. Whenever usury can be proved, the contract, I take it, will be null. Where it cannot be proved, the parties will be obliged to acknowledge on oath, and then their principal and interest only will be due. Wherever a fair account can be stated, and all the sums borrowed and paid can be set against each other, it is probable it will be found that more has been paid than, on a computation of legal interest, was ever received. Here, I presume, the demand would be extinguished, and possibly the parties would be compelled to disgorge. These are rather desultory thoughts than a systematic view of the subject. I wish I had more time to form a more digested opinion, but as I have not you must take what I can give. Adieu, my unfortunate friend. God bless you and extricate you with reputation. Again adieu. Be honorable, calm, and firm.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to william seton
May 25, 1792.
My Dear Sir:
The society for the establishing of useful manufactures, at their last meeting resolved to borrow a sum of five thousand dollars upon a pledge of deferred stock. Mr. Walker is empowered to negotiate the loan, and I expect application will be made to the Bank of New York for it. I have a strong wish that the directors of that bank may be disposed to give facilities to this institution upon terms of perfect safety to itself. I will add that from its situation it is much the interest of our city that it should succeed. It is not difficult to discern the advantage of being the immediate market of a con siderable manufacturing town. A pledge of public stock will completely fulfil the idea of perfect security. I will add more, that in my opinion banks ought to afford accommodation in such cases upon easy terms of interest. I think five per cent. ought to suffice, for a direct public good is presented. And institutions of this kind, within reasonable limits, ought to consider it as a principal object to promote beneficial public purposes.
To you, my dear sir, I will not scruple to say in confidence that the Bank of New York shall suffer no diminution of its pecuniary facilities from any accommodation it may afford to the society in question. I feel my reputation much concerned in its welfare.
I would not wish any formal communication of this letter to the directors, but you may make known my wishes to such of them as you may judge expedient.[Back to Table of Contents]
to colonel edward carrington1
May 26, 1792.
My Dear Sir:
Believing that I possess a share of your personal friendship and confidence, and yielding to that which I feel towards you; persuaded also, that our political creed is the same on two essential points—first, the necessity of Union to the respectability and happiness of this country, and second, the necessity of an efficient general govermnent to maintain the Union, I have concluded to unbosom myself to you, on the present state of political parties and views. I will ask no reply to what I shall say; I only ask that you will be persuaded the representations I shall make are agreeable to the real and sincere impressions of my mind. You will make the due allowance for the influence of circumstances upon it; you will consult your own observations, and you will draw such a conclusion as shall appear to you proper. When I accepted the office I now hold, it was under full persuasion, that from similarity of thinking, conspiring with personal good-will, I should have the firm support of Mr. Madison, in the general course of my administration. Aware of the intrinsic difficulties of the situation, and of the powers of Mr. Madison, I do not believe I should have accepted under a different supposition. I have mentioned the similarity of thinking between that gentleman and myself. This was relative, not merely to the general principles of national policy and government, but to the leading points, which were likely to constitute questions in the administration of the finances. I mean, first, the expediency of funding the debt; second, the inexpediency of discrimination between original and present holders; third, the expediency of assuming the State debts.
As to the first point, the evidence of Mr. Madison’s sentiments, at one period, is to be found in the address of Congress, of April twenty-sixth, seventeen hundred and eighty-three, which was planned by him, in conformity to his own ideas, and without any previous suggestions from the committee, and with his hearty co-operation in every part of the business. His conversations upon various occasions since have been expressive of a continuance in the same sentiment; nor, indeed, has he yet contradicted it, by any part of his official conduct. How far there is reason to apprehend a change in this particular, will be stated hereafter. As to the second part, the same address is an evidence of Mr. Madison’s sentiments at the same period. And I had been informed that at a later period he had been, in the Legislature of Virginia, a strenuous and successful opponent of the principle of discrimination. Add to this, that a variety of conversations had taken place between him and myself, respecting the public debt, down to the commencement of the new government, in none of which had he glanced at the idea of a change of opinion. I wrote him a letter after my appointment, in the recess of Congress, to obtain his sentiments on the subject of the finances. In his answer, there is not a lisp of his new system.
As to the third point, the question of an assumption of the State debts by the United States was in discussion when the convention that framed the present government was sitting at Philadelphia, and in a long conversation which I had with Mr. Madison in an afternoon’s walk, I well remember that we were perfectly agreed in the expediency and propriety of such a measure; though we were both of opinion that it would be more advisable to make it a measure of administration than an article of Constitution, from the impolicy of multiplying obstacles to its reception on collateral details.
Under these circumstances you will naturally imagine that it must have been matter of surprise to me when I was apprised that it was Mr. Madison’s intention to oppose my plan on both the last-mentioned points. Before the debate commenced,1 I had a conversation with him on my report; in the course of which I alluded to the calculation I had made of his sentiments, and the grounds of that calculation. He did not deny them; but alleged in his justification that the very considerable alienation of the debt, subsequent to the periods at which he had opposed a discrimination, had essentially changed the state of the question; and that as to-the assumption, he had contemplated it to take place as matters stood at the peace. While the change of opinion avowed on the point of discrimination diminished my respect for the force of Mr. Madison’s mind and the soundness of his judgment; and while the idea of reserving and setting afloat a vast mass of already extinguished debt, as the condition of a measure, the leading objects of which were an accession of strength to the national government, and an assurance of order and vigor in the national finances, by doing away with the necessity of thirteen complicated and conflicting systems of finance, appeared to me somewhat extraordinary, yet my previous impressions of the fairness of Mr. Madison’s character, and my reliance on his good-will towards me, disposed me to believe that his suggestions were sincere, and even on the point of an assumption of the debts of the States as they stood at the peace, to lean towards a co-operation in his views, till on feeling the ground I found the thing impracticable, and on further reflection I thought it liable to immense difficulties. It was tried and failed with little countenance.
At this time and afterwards repeated intimations were given to me that Mr. Madison, from a spirit of rivalship, or some other cause, had become personally unfriendly to me; and one gentleman in particular, whose honor I have no reason to doubt, assured me that Mr. Madison, in a conversation with him, had made a pretty direct attempt to insinuate unfavorable impressions of me. Still I suspended my opinion on the subject. I knew the malevolent officiousness of mankind too well to yield a very ready acquiescence to the suggestions which were made, and resolved to wait till time and more ex perience should afford a solution. It was not till the last session that I became unequivocally convinced of the following truth: “that Mr. Madison, cooperating with Mr. Jefferson, is at the head of a faction decidedly hostile to me and my administration; and actuated by views, in my judgment, subversive of the principles of good government and dangerous to the Union, peace, and happiness of the country.”
These are strong expressions, they may pain your friendship for one or both of the gentlemen whom I have named. I have not lightly resolved to hazard them. They are the result of a serious alarm in my mind for the public welfare, and of a full conviction that what I have alleged is a truth, and a truth which ought to be told, and well attended to by all the friends of the Union and efficient national government. The suggestion will, I hope, at least, awaken attention free from the bias of former prepossessions.
This conviction, in my mind, is the result of a long train of circumstances, many of them minute. To attempt to detail them all would fill a volume. I shall therefore confine myself to the mention of a few.
First.—As to the point of opposition to me and my administration.
Mr. Jefferson, with very little reserve, manifests his dislike of the funding system generally, calling in question the expediency of funding a debt at all. Some expressions, which he has dropped in my presence (sometimes without sufficient attention to delicacy), will not permit me to doubt on this point representations which I have had from various respectable quarters. I do not mean that he advocates directly the undoing of what has been done, but he censures the whole, on principles which, if they should become general, could not but end in the subversion of the system. In various conversations, with foreigners as well as citizens, he has thrown censure on my principles of government and on my measures of administration. He has predicted that the people would not long tolerate my proceedings, and that I should not long maintain my ground. Some of those whom he immediately and notoriously moves have even whispered suspicions of the rectitude of my motives and conduct. In the question concerning the bank he not only delivered an opinion in writing against its constitutionality and expediency, but he did it in a style and manner which I felt as partaking of asperity and ill humor toward me. As one of the trustees of the sinking fund, I have experienced in almost every leading question opposition from him. When any turn of things in the community has threatened either odium or embarrassment to me, he has not been able to suppress the satisfaction which it gave him. A part of this is, of course, information, and might be misrepresentation, but it comes through so many channels, and so well accords with what falls under my own observation, that I can entertain no doubt.
I find a strong confirmation in the following circumstances: Freneau, the present printer of the National Gazette, who was a journeyman with Childs & Swain, at New York, was a known Anti-federalist. It is reduced to a certainty that he was brought to Philadelphia by Mr. Jefferson to be the conductor of a newspaper. It is notorious that contemporarily with the commencement of his paper he was a clerk in the Department of State, for foreign languages. Hence a clear inference that his paper has been set on foot and is conducted under the patronage and not against the views of Mr. Jefferson. What then is the complexion of this paper? Let any impartial man peruse all the numbers down to the present day, and I never was more mistaken if he does not pronounce that it is a paper devoted to the subversion of me and the measures in which I have had an agency; and I am little less mistaken if he does not pronounce that it is aypaper of a tendency generally unfriendly to the government of the United States. It may be said that a newspaper being open to all the publications which are offered to it, its complexion may be influenced by other views than those of the editor. But the fact here is that whenever the editor appears it is in. a correspondent dress. The paragraphs which appear as his own, the publications, not original, which are selected for his press, are of the same malignant and unfriendly aspect; so as not to leave a doubt of the temper which directs the publication. Again, Brown, who publishes an evening paper called The Federal Gazette, was originally a zealous Federalist, and person ally friendly to me. He has been employed by Mr. Jefferson as a printer to the government for the publication of the laws, and for some time past, until lately, the complexion of his press was equally bitter and unfriendly to me and to the government.
Lately Col. Pickering, in consequence of certain attacks upon him, got hold of some instances of malconduct of his which have served to hold him in check, and seemed to have varied his tone a little. I don’t lay so much stress on this last case as on the former. There I find an internal evidence, which is as conclusive as can be expected in any similar case. Thus far as to Mr. Jefferson.
With regard to Mr. Madison, the matter stands thus: I have not heard, but in the one instance to which I have alluded, of his having held language unfriendly to me in private conversation, but in his public conduct there has been a more uniform and persevering opposition than I have been able to resolve into a sincere difference of opinion. I cannot persuade myself that Mr. Madison and I, whose politics had formerly so much the same point of departure, should now diverge so widely in our opinions of the measures which are proper to be pursued. The opinion I once entertained of the candor and simplicity and fairness of Mr. Madison’s character, has, I acknowledge, given way to a decided opinion that it is one of a peculiarly artificial and complicated kind. For a considerable part of the last session Mr. Madison lay in a great measure perdu. But it was evident from his votes and a variety of little movements and appearances, that he was the prompter of Mr. Giles and others who were the open instruments of the opposition. Two facts occurred in the course of the session which I view as unequivocal demonstrations of his disposition towards me. In one, a direct and decisive blow was aimed. When the Department of the Treasury was established, Mr. Madison was an unequivocal advocate of the principles which prevailed in it, and of the powers and duties which were assigned by it to the head of the department. This appeared, both from his private and public discourse, and I will add, that I have personal evidence that Mr. Madison is as well convinced as any man in the United States of the necessity of the arrangement which characterizes that establishment, to the orderly conducting of the business of the finances. Mr. Madison nevertheless opposed a reference to me to report ways and means for the Western expedition, and combated, on principle, the propriety of such references.
He well knew that if he had prevailed a certain consequence was my resignation; that I would not be fool enough to make pecuniary sacrifices and endure a life of extreme drudgery without opportunity either to do material good or to acquire reputation, and frequently with a responsibility in reputation for measures in which I had no hand, and in respect to which the part I had acted, if any, could not be known. To accomplish this point an effectual train, as was supposed, was laid. Besides those who ordinarily acted under Mr. Madison’s banners, several who had generally acted with me, from various motives—vanity, self-importance, etc., etc.,—were enlisted.
My overthrow was anticipated as certain, and Mr. Madison, laying aside his wonted caution, boldly led his troops, as he imagined, to a certain victory. He was disappointed. Though late, I became apprised of the danger. Measures of counteraction were adopted, and when the question was called Mr. Madison was confounded to find characters voting against him whom he counted upon as certain. Towards the close of the session another, though a more covert, attack was made. It was in the shape of a proposition to insert in the supplementary act respecting the public debt something byway of instruction to the trustees “ to make their purchases of the debt at the lowest market price.” In the course of the discussion of this point Mr. Madison dealt much in insidious insinuations calculated to give an impression that the public money, under my particular direction, had been unfaithfully applied to put undue advantages in the pockets of speculators, and to support the debt at an artificial price for their benefit. The whole manner of this transaction left no doubt in any one’s mind that Mr. Madison was actuated by personal and political animosity. As to this last instance, it is but candid to acknowledge that Mr. Madison had a better right to act the enemy than on any former occasion. I had, some short time before, subsequent to his conduct respecting the reference, declared openly my opinion of the views by which he was actuated towards me, and my determination to consider and treat him as a political enemy. An intervening proof of Mr. Madison’s unfriendly intrigues to my disadvantage is to be found in the following incident, which I relate to you upon my honor, but, from the nature of it, you will perceive in the strictest confidence: The President, having prepared his speech at the commencement of the ensuing session, communicated it to Mr. Madison for his remarks. It contained, among other things, a clause concerning weights and measures, hinting the advantage of an invariable standard, which preceded, in the original state of the speech, a clause containing the mint. Mr. Madison suggested a transposition of these clauses and the addition of certain words, which I now forget, imparting an immediate connection between the two subjects. You may recollect that Mr. Jefferson proposes that the unit of weight and the unit in the coins shall be the same, and that my propositions are to preserve the dollar as a unit, adhering to its present quantity of silver and establishing the same proportion of alloy in the silver as in the gold coins. The evident design of this manoeuvre was to commit the President’s opinion in favor of Mr. Jefferson’s idea in contradiction to mine, and, the worst of it is, without his being aware of the tendency of the thing. It happened that the President showed me the speech, altered in conformity to Mr. Madison’s suggestion, just before it was copied for the purpose of being delivered, I remarked to him the tendency of the alteration. He declared that he had not been aware of it, and had no such intention, and without hesitation agreed to expunge the words which were designed to connect the two subjects.
This transaction, in my opinion, not only furnishes a proof of Mr. Madison’s intrigues in opposition to my measures, but charges him with an abuse of the President’s confidence in him, by endeavoring to make him, without his knowledge, take part with one officer against another in a case in which they had given different opinions to the Legislature of the country. I forbore to awake the President’s mind to this last inference, but it is among the circumstances which have convinced me that Mr. Madison’s true character is the reverse of that simple, fair, candid one which he has assumed. I have informed you that Mr. Freneau was brought to Philadelphia by Mr. Jefferson, to be conductor of a newspaper. My information announced Mr. Madison as the means of negotiation, while he was at New York last summer. This, and the general coincidence and close intimacy between the two gentlemen, leave no doubt that their views are substantially the same.
Secondly, as to the tendency of the views of the two gentlemen who have been named. Mr. Jefferson is an avowed enemy to a funded debt. Mr. Madison disavows, in public, any intention to undo what has been done, but, in private conversation with Mr. Charles Carroll, Senator, (this gentleman’s name I mention confidentially, though he mentioned the matter to Mr. King and several other gentlemen as well as myself, and if any chance should bring you together you would easily bring him to repeat it to you,) he favored the sentiment in Mr. Mercer’s speech, that a Legislature had no right to fund the debt by mortgaging permanently the public revenues, because they had no right to bind posterity. The inference is that what has been unlawfully done may be undone.
The discourse of partisans in the Legislature, and the publication in the party newspapers, direct their main battery against the principle of a funded debt, and represent it in the most odious light as a perfect Pandora’s box.
If Mr. Barnwell of South Carolina, who appears to be a man of nice honor, may be credited, Mr. Giles declared, in a conversation with him, that if there was a question for reversing the funding system on the abstract point of the right of pledging and the utility of preserving public faith, he should be for reversal, merely to demonstrate his sense of the defect of right and the inutility of the thing. If positions equally extravagant were not publicly advanced by some of the party, and secretly countenanced by the most guarded and discreet of them, one would be led, from the absurdity of the declaration, to suspect misapprehension. But, from what is known, any thing may be believed. Whatever were the original merits of the funding system, after having been so solemnly adopted, and after so great a transfer of property under it, what would become of the government should it be reversed? What of the national reputation? Upon what system of morality can so atrocious a doctrine be maintained? In me, I confess it excited indignation and horror!
What are we to think of those maxims of government by which the power of a Legislature is denied to bind the nation, by a contract in the affair of property for twenty-four years? For this is precisely the case of the debt. What are to become of all the legal rights of property, of all charters to corporations, nay, of all grants to a man, his heirs and assigns, for ever, if this doctrine be true? What is the term for which a government is in capacity to contract? Questions might be multiplied without end, to demonstrate the perniciousness and absurdity of such a doctrine.
In almost all the questions, great and small, which have arisen since the first session of Congress, Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison have been found among those who are disposed to narrow the federal authority. The question of a national bank is one example. The question of bounties to the fisheries is another. Mr. Madison resisted it on the ground of constitutionality, till it was evident, by the intermediate questions taken, that the bill would pass; and he then, under the wretched subterfuge of a change of a single word, “bounty” for “allowance,” went over to the majority, and voted for the bill. On the militia bill, and in a variety of minor cases, he has leaned to abridging the exercise of federal authority, and leaving as much as possible to the States; and he lost no opportunity of sounding the alarm, with great affected solemnity, at encroachments, meditated on the rights of the States, and of holding up the bugbear of a faction in the government having designs unfriendly to liberty.
This kind of conduct has appeared to me the more extraordinary on the part of Mr. Madison, as I know for a certainty, it was a primary article in his creed, that the real danger in our system was the subversion of the national authority by the preponderancy of the State governments. All his measures have proceeded on an opposite supposition. I recur again to the instance of Freneau’s paper. In matters of this kind one cannot have direct proof of men’s latent views; they must be inferred from circumstances. As coadjutor of Mr. Jefferson in the establishment of this paper, I include Mr. Madison in the consequences imputable to it. In respect to foreign politics, the views of these gentlemen are, in my judgment, equally unsound and dangerous. They have a womanish attachment to France and a womanish resentment against Great Britain. They would draw us into the closest embrace of the former, and involve us in all the consequences of her politics; and they would risk the peace of the country in their endeavors to keep us at the greatest possible distance from the latter. This disposition goes to a length, particularly in Mr. Jefferson, of which, till lately, I had no adequate idea. Various circumstances prove to me that if these gentlemen were left to pursue their own course, there would be, in less than six months, an open war between the United States and Great Britain. I trust I have a due sense of the conduct of France towards this country in the late revolution; and that I shall always be among the foremost in making her every suitable return;, but there is a wide difference between this and implicating ourselves in all her politics; between bearing good-will to her and hating and wrangling with all those whom she hates. The neutral and the pacific policy appears to me to mark the true path to the United States.
Having delineated to you what I conceive to be the true complexion of the politics of these gentlemen, I will not attempt a solution of these strange appearances. Mr. Jefferson, it is known, did not in the first instance cordially acquiesce in the new Constitution for the United States; he had many doubts and reserves. He left this country before we had experienced the imbecilities of the former.
In France, he saw government only on the side of its abuses. He drank freely of the French philo sophy, in religion, in science, in politics. He came from France in the moment of a fermentation, which he had a share in exciting, and in the passions and feelings of which he shared both from temperament and situation. He came here probably with a too partial idea of his own powers; and with the expectation of a greater share in the direction of our councils than he has in reality enjoyed. I am not sure that he had not peculiarly marked out for himself the department of the finances.
He came, electrified with attachment to France, and with the project of knitting together the two countries in the closest political bands.
Mr. Madison had always entertained an exalted opinion of the talents, knowledge, and virtues of Mr. Jefferson. The sentiment was probably reciprocal. A close correspondence subsisted between them during the time of Mr. Jefferson’s absence from the country. A close intimacy arose upon his return.
Whether any peculiar opinions of Mr. Jefferson’s concerning the public debt wrought a change in the sentiments of Mr. Madison (for it is certain that the former is more radically wrong than the latter), or whether Mr. Madison, seduced by the expectation of, popularity, and possibly by the calculation of advantage to the State of Virginia, was led to change his own opinion, certain it is that a very material change took place, and that the two gentlemen were united in the new ideas. Mr. Jefferson was indiscreetly open in his approbation of Mr. Madison’s principles, upon his first coming to the seat of government. I say indiscreetly, because a gentleman in the administration, in one department, ought not to have taken sides against another, in another department. The course of this business and a variety of circumstances which took place left Mr. Madison a very discontented and chagrined man, and begot some degree of ill-humor in Mr. Jefferson. Attempts were made by these gentlemen, in different ways, to produce a commercial warfare with Great Britain. In this, too, they were disappointed. And, as they had the liveliest wishes on the subject, their dissatisfaction has been proportionably great; and, as I had not favored the project, I was comprehended in their displeasure.
These causes, and perhaps some others, created, much sooner than I was aware of it, a systematic opposition to me, on the part of these gentlemen. My subversion, I am now satisfied, has been long an object with them.
Subsequent events have increased the spirit of opposition and the feelings of personal mortification on the part of these gentlemen.
A mighty stand was made on the affair of the bank. There was much commitment in that case. I pre vailed. On the mint business I was opposed from the same quarters and with still less success. In the affair of ways and means for the Western expedition, on the supplementary arrangements concerning the debt, except as to the additional assumption, my views have been equally prevalent in opposition to theirs. This current of success on the one side and of defeat on the other has rendered the opposition furious, and has produced a disposition to subvert their competitors, even at the expense of the government.
Another circumstance has contributed to widening the breach. ’t is evident, beyond a question, from every movement, that Mr. Jefferson aims with ardent desire at the Presidential chair. This, too, is an important object of the party-politics. It is supposed, from the nature of my former personal and political connections, that I may favor some other candidate more than Mr. Jefferson, when the question shall occur by the retreat of the present gentleman. My influence, therefore, with the community becomes a thing, on ambitious and personal grounds, to be resisted and destroyed. You know how much it was a point to establish the Secretary of State, as the officer who was to administer the government in defect of the President and Vice-President. Here, I acknowledge, though I took far less part than was supposed, I ran counter to Mr. Jefferson’s wishes; but if I had had no other reason for it, I had already experienced opposition from him, which rendered it a measure of self-defence. It is possible, too, (for men easily heat their imaginations when their passions are heated,) that they have by degrees persuaded themselves of what they may have at first only sported to influence others, namely, that there is some dreadful combination against State government and republicanism; which, according to them, are convertible terms. But there is so much absurdity in this supposition, that the admission of it tends to apologize for their hearts at the expense of their heads. Under the influence of all these circumstances the attachment to the government of the United States, originally weak in Mr. Jefferson’s mind, has given way to something very like dislike in Mr. Madison’s. It is so counteracted by personal feelings as to be more an affair of the head than of the heart; more the result of a conviction of the necessity of Union than of cordiality to the thing itself. I hope it does not stand worse than this with him. In such a state of mind both these gentlemen are prepared to hazard a great deal to effect a change. Most of the important measures of every government are connected with the treasury. To subvert the present head of it, they deem it expedient to risk rendering the government itself odious; perhaps foolishly thinking that they can easily recover the lost affections and confidence of the people, and not appreciating, as they ought to do, the natural resistance to government, which in every community results from the human passions, the degree to which this is strengthened by the organized rivality of State governments, and the infinite danger that the national government, once rendered odious, will be kept so by these powerful and indefatigable enemies. They forget an old, but a very just, though a coarse saying, that it is much easier to raise the devil than to lay him. Poor Knox has come in for a share of their persecutions, as a man who generally thinks with me, and who has a por tion of the President’s good-will and confidence. In giving you this picture of political parties, my design is, I confess, to awaken your attention, if it has not yet been awakened, to the conduct of the gentlemen in question. If my opinion of them is founded, it is certainly of great moment to the public weal that they should be understood. I rely on the strength of your mind to appreciate men as they merit, when you have a clue to their real views.
A word on another point. I am told that serious apprehensions are disseminated in your State as to the existence of a monarchical party meditating the destruction of State and republican government. If it is possible that so absurd an idea can gain ground, it is necessary that it should be combated. I assure you, on my private faith and honor as a man, that there is not, in my judgment, a shadow of foundation for it. A very small number of men indeed may entertain theories less republican than Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison, but I am persuaded there is not a man among them who would not regard as both criminal and visionary any attempt to subvert the republican system of the country. Most of these men rather fear that it may not justify itself by its fruits, than feel a predilection for a different form; and their fears are not diminished by the factious and fanatical politics which they find prevailing among a certain set of gentlemen and threatening to disturb the tranquillity and order of the government.
As to the destruction of State governments, the great and real anxiety is to be able to preserve the national from the too potent and counteracting influence of those governments. As to my own political creed, I give it to you with the utmost sincerity. I am affectionately attached to the republican theory. I desire above all things to see the equality of political rights, exclusive of all hereditary distinction, firmly established by a practical demonstration of its being consistent with the order and happiness of society. As to State governments, the prevailing bias of my judgment is that if they can be circumscribed within bounds, consistent with the preservation of the national government, they will prove useful and salutary. If the States were all of the size of Connecticut, Maryland, or New Jersey, I should decidedly regard the local governments as both safe and useful. As the thing now is, however, I acknowledge the most serious apprehensions, that the government of the United States will not be able to maintain itself against their influence. I see that influence already penetrating into the national councils and preventing their direction. Hence, a disposition on my part towards a liberal construction of the powers of the national government, and to erect every fence, to guard it from depredations which is, in my opinion, consistent with constitutional propriety. As to any combination to prostrate the State governments, I disavow and deny it. From an apprehension lest the judiciary should not work efficiently or harmoniously, I have been desirous of seeing some national scheme of connection adopted as an amendment to the Constitution, otherwise I am for maintaining things as they are; though I doubt much the possibility of it, from a tendency in the nature of things towards the preponderancy of the State governments.
I said that I was affectionately attached to the republican theory. This is the real language of my heart, which I open to you in the sincerity of friendship; and I add that I have strong hopes of the success of that theory; but, in candor, I ought also to add that I am far from being without doubts. I consider its success as yet a problem. It is yet to be determined by experience whether it be consistent with that stability and order in government which are essential to public strength and private security and happiness.
On the whole, the only enemy which Republicanism has to fear in this country is in the spirit of faction and anarchy. If this will not permit the ends of government to be attained under it, if it engenders disorders in the community, all regular and orderly minds will wish for a change, and the demagogues who have produced the disorder will make it for their own aggrandizement. This is the old story. If I were disposed to promote monarchy and overthrow State governments, I would mount the hobby-horse of popularity; I would cry out “usurpation,” “danger to liberty,” etc., etc.; I would endeavor to prostrate the national government, raise a ferment, and then “ride in the whirlwind, and direct the storm.” That there are men acting with Jefferson and Madison who have this in view, I verily believe; I could lay my finger on some of them. That Madison does not mean it, I also verily believe; and I rather believe the same of Jefferson, but I read him upon the whole thus: “A man of profound ambition and violent passions.”
You must be by this time tired of my epistle. Perhaps I have treated certain characters with too much severity. I have, however, not meant to do them injustice, and, from the bottom of my soul, believe I have drawn them truly; and it is of the utmost consequence to the public weal they should be viewed in their true colors. I yield to this impression. I will only add that I make no clandestine attacks on the gentlemen concerned. They are both apprised indirectly from myself of the opinion I entertain of their views. With the truest regard and esteem.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to general otho h. williams
June 9, 1792.
My Dear Sir:
I feel myself not a little a delinquent in regard to a certain paper you forwarded to me. I will now explain the reason of its non-appearance. Though I thought it a merited and a very good reproof on certain folks, as well as calculated to throw useful light on transactions interesting to the fame of our deceased friend,1as the business depending was taking a favorable turn when I received your letter, I doubted the expediency of starting any new game, lest it should wound the pride and jar the nerves of more than the individual meant to be chastised, so as to perhaps do harm to a cause we both wish to promote.
If things had continued on an unpromising train, I should have been willing to have taken the chance of the publication. In me it would have gratified feelings of more than one kind.
I at first intended to reserve the publication for the conclusion of the business, but then I doubted whether it was worth while to stir again the question. It could not serve the original purpose, and it was not necessary to the fame of the General, that stands unassailable with success.
If any impressions have fallen under your notice which induce you to think this last conclusion erroneous, the publication at this time will not be too late for that purpose.
P. S.—With your permission, I will retain the paper as an interesting record of some particulars which were not before known to me.1[Back to Table of Contents]
to gouverneur morris
June 22, 1792.
My Dear Sir:
I accept your challenge to meet you in the field of mutual confidential communication; though I cannot always promise punctuality or copiousness. I will, however, do the best I can.
Will it not be a necessary preliminary to agree upon a cypher? One has been devised for me which, though simple in execution, is tedious in prepara tion. I may shortly forward it. In the meantime let us settle some appellations for certain official characters. I will call,
|The President, Scævola.||The Vice-President, Brutus.|
|Sec‘y of State, Scipio.|
|Sec‘y of Treasury, Paulus||Sec‘y of War, Sempronius.|
|Robert Morris, Cato.||Oliver Ellsworth, Virginius.|
|Rufus King, Leonidas.|
|Aaron Burr, Sævius.||George Cabot, Portius.|
|——— Monroe, Sydney.||Richard Henry Lee, Marcus.|
|Ralph Izard, Themistocles.|
|James Madison, Tarquin.||——— Giles, Chronus.|
|Abraham Baldwin, Hampden.||——— Ames, Valerius.|
|John Lawrence, Solon.|
|——— Mercer, Tacitus.||——— Murray, Livy.|
|Thomas Fitzsimmons, Cicero.||Egbert Benson, Cromwell.|
|Jeremiah Wadsworth Titius.||Johathan Trumbull, Quintus.|
You see that I have avoided characteristic names. In my next you shall have a sketch of the general state of the country, its politics and parties. I thank you for your calculations, as I will for every suggestion you shall make. I shall seldom fail to get either a new idea or a new appellation of an old one. I shall endeavor to put in train, by this opportunity, the papers you advise to be sent to the Russian Ambassador. If your courage is not put to the test by being put to wear what you have won, it will not be my fault. Do you know enough of the catechism in the vulgar tongue to fulfil what you have lately undertaken?1[Back to Table of Contents]
to colonel heth1 AND OTHERS
June 26, 1792.
I have received your circular-letter of the 28th of February last.
I consider it as addressed to me in the capacity of a fellow-soldier, and in that capacity I now acknowledge and answer it.
Respect for you, gentlemen, and for those on whose behalf you write, does not permit me to be silent, and in replying, the frankness which is due to you and them, and which is not less due to my own character, forbids me to dissemble.
My judgment does not accord with the views which are announced in your letter. A perseverance in them will not, I believe, be productive of any advantage to the parties, and may I fear be attended with some public inconveniences, which I am persuaded they would regret.
I also have made sacrifices with the army, and, what is less known, for the army. I feel that I love those who remain of that respectable band, and that no one can be more solicitous than myself for their welfare. I trust, therefore, they will do justice to my motives on the present occasion.2[Back to Table of Contents]
to william seton
June 26, 1792.
This accompanies an official letter. I acknowledge I doubt the accuracy of the opinion of the attorney-general on the last point. A law is not to be so literally construed as to involve absurdity and oppression. The Legislature might reasonably restrain its officers from future buying and selling of stock, but could not reasonably prevent their making a disposition of property which they had previously acquired according to the laws of their country.
At the same time, for greater caution, I should in my own case follow the strict interpretation.
All my property in the funds is about $800, 3 per cents. These, at a certain period, I should have sold, had I not been unwilling to give occasion to cavil.
The restriction itself, as it respects the officers of the treasury, and I rather think the commissioners of loans, is a wise and unexceptionable one.
But the propriety of its further extension is not obvious, and I doubt whether it will be lasting. The act passed in a prodigious hurry.[Back to Table of Contents]
to rufus sing
June 28, 1792.
My Dear King:
I have not, as you well may imagine, been inattentive to your political squabble. I believe you are right (though I have not accurately examined), but I am not without apprehension that a ferment may be raised which may not be allayed when you wish it. ’t is not to be forgotten that the opposers of Clinton are the real friends to order and good government, and that it will ill become them to give an example to the contrary.
Some folks are talking of conventions and the bayonet. But the case will justify neither a resort to such principles nor to violence. Some amendments of your election laws, and possibly the impeachment of some of the canvassers who have given proofs of premeditated partiality, will be very well, and it will answer good purposes to keep alive, within proper bounds, the public indignation. But beware of extremes!
There appears to be no definite declared objects of the movements on foot, which render them more ticklish. What can you do? What do you expect to effect?1[Back to Table of Contents]
tO elias boudinot
July 112, 1792.
I wrote you, a day or two since, on the subject of the advertisement.
You recollect there is a power to borrow to be given to the committee, under the seal of the corporation. No time ought to be lost in preparing and executing the power and making application for the loan. Not more than $30,000, in addition to the $10,000 already borrowed, need at first be asked for. I shall write to Mr. Seton by to-morrow’s post.
Pray, my friend, let nothing slumber.[Back to Table of Contents]
July 22, 1792.
I wrote you on Monday last, transmitting a resolution of the Commissioners of the Sinking Fund. Nothing in the way of public business requiring your attention has since occurred.
There is a matter I beg leave to mention to you confidentially, in which your interposition, if you deem it advisable, may have a good effect.
I have long had it at heart that some good system of regulations for the forwarding supplies to the army, issuing them there and accounting for them to the Department of War, should be established. On conversing with the Secretary at War, I do not find that any such now exists; nor had the intimations I have taken the liberty to give on the subject, though perfectly well received, hitherto produced the desired effect. The utility of the thing does not seem to be as strongly impressed on the mind of the Secretary at War as it is on mine.
It has occurred to me that if you should think fit to call by letter upon the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary at War to report to you the system and regulations under which the procuring, issuing, and accounting for supplies to the army is conducted, it would produce what appears to be now wanting. I submit the idea accordingly.
END OF VOL. IX.
It may be said that the occupation of the several branches of revenue in the way which has been stated is merely suppositious! It might not have happened—a more partial and at the same time a more various distribution might have left a freer stage to the United States. The possibility of what has been stated in theory is a conclusive argument for preferring a plan which avoided it. But more than this, it is probable, and from circumstances was in a great degree unavoidable that what has been supposed should have been substantially realized in practice. The modes of taxation in particular States and the magnitude of their debts would have naturally led to it. And as far as the States, in their provisions, had recourse to different objects, though not to the full extent, so far the evil would have existed and would have been an obstacle to a due provision for the public necessities. But besides this, it would be impossible to the State Governments to command efficaciously one principal source of taxation, that of excises, because of the competition of industry where they were not laid.
I have annexed the epithet honorable to that of speedy, because certainly a more speedy extinguishment could have been found in bankruptcy and fraud. There is too much cause to believe that those who favored the intricate speckled system of State provisions secretly had an eye to this happy resource. Its evils in every sense have been delineated, and no one who values his character will avow it. No sound politician will look with complacency toward it. It was of the justice and policy of the United States to expel this corruption from the body politic.
When the Assumption Act was carried out by the commissioners considerable balances remained, owing to Congress having allowed a State term which could not be overstepped.
The conclusion of this paper is lacking. All that remains unprinted is an imperfect outline of a proof, by figures, of the proposition that no part of the debt was paid twice.
Edward Stevens, the friend of Hamilton’s boyhood, was the son of Mr. Stevens, a West India planter and merchant. Hamilton’s relations with the Stevens family were very intimate, and young Stevens accompanied him to this country where they both were educated.
This letter is one of a number of similar letters written by Hamilton while a clerk in Mr. Cruger’s counting-room. It is given merely as a specimen of his business correspondence which was certainly remarkable for a boy of fourteen.
The gentleman in whose office Hamilton was employed.
Hamilton was at this time captain of an artillery company of the New York troops.
These gentlemen formed a committee of the New York Convention.
Robert Morris, the distinguished financier of the revolution.
Not legible in the manuscript.
The distinguished revolutionary governor of New Jersey.
Reprinted from Hamilton’s History of the Republic, i., 194.
Col. Wm. Duer, born in England in 1747, served with Lord Clive in India, and came to New York in 1768. He warmly espoused the patriot side, married Catherine Alexander, daughter of William Alexander, commonly known as Lord Stirling, and was a life-long friend of Hamilton, who stood by him and helped him in the business misfortunes which befell him, and which cost Hamilton deep anxiety. Col. Duer figures often in this correspondence. He was at this time on the New York Committee of Safety, and was soon after chosen to Congress.
Mr. Malmedi was appointed Colonel on the Continental establishment. He thought the rank below his deserts, and was one of the many French officers who harassed Washington on this score. See Writings of Washington, iv., 419.
Nicholas Cook, Governor of Rhode Island from 1775 to 1778.
The Constitution of New York was at this time under consideration, and Morris was on the committee engaged in making a draft, and had made some very able speeches on the subject in the Provincial Convention or Congress.
Arthur Lee, of Virginia, brother of Richard Henry Lee, at this time one of our agents in Europe.
A leading patriot and a member of the well-known New York family. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, for many years Chancellor of New York, and Minister to France from 1801 to 1804. At this time he was a member of the New York Constitutional Convention.
For a youth of twenty this is a rather remarkable analysis of the condition of Europe.
Dr. Hugh Knox, a worthy minister in the West Indies, who had advised and helped Hamilton in his boyhood, and always remained his warm admirer.
July 5, 1777.
Sussex County, New Jersey; Washington calls this place simply “The Clove,” the name which it bears to-day.
The New Hampshire Grants in what is now Vermont.
Sinopuxent Bay on the coast of Maryland.
James Lovell of Massachusetts, at this time member of Congress.
Reprinted from Hamilton’s History of the Republic, i., p. 348.
I owe this and the other letters to be given subsequently from the Clinton papers, to the kindness of Mr. Henry A. Homes, State Librarian at Albany, and to the late Judge Clinton, editor of the Clinton papers. This letter was published by the New York Herald in a pamphlet entitled “Clinton Correspondence,” in 1842, and is now reprinted from the Clinton papers in the possession of the State of New York.
The leader of the intrigue against Washington which has become famous as the “Conway Cabal.”
Endorsed “private” by Governor Clinton, and answered by him March 5th.
From the Clinton papers.
Baron Steuben was appointed Inspector-general of the Army May 5, 1778, and this letter, which is undated in the edition of 1850, refers to that office.
The distinguished New Jersey patriot and statesman; at this time member of Congress and Commissary General of Prisoners; afterwards President of Congress, and from 1789–1795 member of the National House of Representatives.
Reprinted from Hamilton’s History of the Republic, i., pp. 468 and 478.
William Alexander, commonly called in America Lord Stirling, from his claim to that earldom, was President of the Court Martial which tried Gen. Charles Lee for his conduct at the battle of Monmouth, and it is probable therefore that this hitherto unpublished letter from the Hamilton papers in the State Department, was addressed to him. Hamilton testified at the trial on July 4th and July 13th.
Count D‘Estaing arrived in Delaware Bay on July 8th, ten days too late to intercept the British. He sailed for New York and remained some time in the lower bay, unable to get pilots to take him up. He then sailed for Newport, where he arrived July 29th. This letter was written just before D‘Estaing’s departure from New York.
Reprinted from Hamilton’s History of the Republic, i., p. 488.
The French left New York for Newport at the end of July, and the battle of Quaker Hill was fought on August 29th.
John Laurens, Hamilton’s friend and his comrade on Washington’s staff.
Colonel Louis Toussard was one of the officers who came out in 1777, recommended by Silas Deane. For his gallantry in this action he was brevetted a Lieutenant-Colonel and received a pension from Congress. He afterwards served his own government in the West Indies, and in 1794 returned to this country. He was an officer in our army from 1795 to 1802, and afterwards French Consul at New Orleans, 1812–1815.
Reprinted from Hamilton’s History of the Republic, i., 494.
General Charles Lee was tried by court-martial, for his conduct at the battle at Monmouth, as already described.
Major-General Arthur St. Clair, of our army. He was tried by court-martial in September, 1778, for the evacuation of Ticonderoga, July 4, 1777, and honorably acquitted.
Colonel Laurens called Gen. Charles Lee out for using disrespectful language about Washington after the battle of Monmouth.
Miss Livingston was the daughter of Gov. Livingston, of New Jersey, and had asked Hamilton to procure a pass through the American lines for some friends living in New York.
Reprinted from Sedgwick’s Life of Wm. Livingston, p. 320.
Major Otho H. Williams, of Maryland, afterwards a brigadier-general, and always a warm friend of Hamilton.
Colonel David Henley, a brave officer of the Revolutionary War. This letter and certain others which follow relate to a remark attributed to Hamilton by Doctor Gordon, the historian of the Revolution. The most careful search has failed to discover the letters to Mr. Dana, but the “Calumny” of Dr. Gordon is shown, by a letter to Laurens (Sept. 11, 1779), given below, page 173, to have been that he quoted Hamilton as saying that he wished the people to rise, join General Washington, and turn Congress out of doors. The letters are interesting, because they are so extremely characteristic of the writer. The Mr. Dana referred to apparently was Francis Dana, of Massachusetts, afterwards a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, and Commissioner to France.
Now first printed from the Hamilton papers in the State Department.
Colonel John Brooks, of Massachusetts, a gallant soldier of the Revolution, Adjutant-General of the State during the War of 1812 and Governor from 1816 to 1823. The letter also relates to the affair with Dr. Gordon.
Now first printed from the Hamilton papers in the State Department.
Dr. William Gordon, an English clergyman, who was in this country during the Revolution and wrote a history of the war.
Now first printed from the Hamilton papers in the State Department.
The eminent patriot and lawyer of New York and a leader in Congress.
French Minister to the United States.
Now first printed from the Hamilton papers in the State Department.
Col. John Laurens, of South Carolina, whose name has already occurred frequently in this correspondence, was the son of Henry Laurens. He was a member of Washington’s staff, and Hamilton’s most intimate friend. He was one of the most dashing and brilliant of the youthful officers of the Revolution, and fell in a skirmish Aug. 27, 1782, when the war was nearly over. In 1780 he went to France as a commissioner on the loan, and was in all ways one of the most promising men of the period.
Henry Lee, of Virginia, “Light-Horse Harry.”
Reprinted from Moore’s Memoir of Laurens, p. 154.
Adjutant-General of the French army.
The French Minister.
Hamilton and General Du Portail were sent by Washington to meet the Count D‘Estaing on his way up the coast with the French fleet and arrange for his coöperation with our forces. Lebégue Du Portail, general in the French army, came to the United States with Lafayette, and was a valued officer. After the revolution began in France he was made minister of War by Lafayette’s influence, and fell with the latter. He remained long in hiding and finally escaped to America, and died at sea on his way back to France after the 18th Brumaire.
The attack upon Savannah was made on Oct. 9th. The assault was a gallant one, but the combined French and American forces were repulsed by the British with heavy losses.
Jean Baptiste Gouvion, captain in the French army and major-general of the National Guard in 1789 He was killed before Maubeuge in 1792.
This passage beginning “I anticipate” and extending as far as the postscript, is now first printed from the Hamilton papers in the State Department.
Now first printed from the Hamilton papers in the State Department.
Now first printed from the Hamilton papers. It does not appear that Dr. Gordon ever brought the matter to the notice of the authorities of the State.
Writings of Washington, vii., 32. Lafayette brought news of the coming of the French fleet with the army of Rochambeau. The measure urged by Washington was the appointment of a committee by Congress with full powers to raise men and supplies and to arrange for coöperation with the French. A committee was raised as Washington suggested, and consisted of Philip Schuyler, John Mathews, and Nathaniel Peabody.
This letter is reprinted from Geo. W. Greene’s Life of General Greene, ii., p. 287; it is also given in the History of the Republic, ii., 4. The Treasury Board had written to Greene, who was at that time quartermaster-general, in terms implying a doubt of his integrity. He was naturally much incensed, and wrote a reply, which he submitted to Hamilton, who wrote this letter in response. Greene professed himself unable to adopt a milder tone, but consulted Hamilton as to another draft. The date is that given by Mr. Greene.
Charles Louis d‘Arsac de Ternay, admiral and commander of the fleet that brought Rochambeau and his army to America. He reached Newport with his fleet July 10, 1780, and died there on December 15th of the same year, in the fifty-ninth year of his age.
Now first printed from the original in the Wayne MSS. I owe this letter to the kindness of the Hon. George Bancroft.
Miss Elizabeth Schuyler, whom Hamilton met first at Albany on his mission to Gates in 1777. She was the daughter of General Philip Schuyler. At the time of this letter she and Hamilton were engaged and they were married Dec. 14, 1780.
This letter is reprinted from the Writings of Washington, vii., 215. It is also given without date in the History of the Republic, ii., 55. Hamilton had been sent, as soon as Arnold’s escape was known, to Verplanck’s Point to try to intercept him, and this letter was written on his arrival, which he found was too late, for the bird had flown and was safe on board the Vulture, an English sloop-of-war.
This letter is the best description extant of Arnold’s treason, and all the accompanying incidents. It is admirably written, and shows, in a striking way, Hamilton’s literary skill. In the edition of 1850 it is dated September, which is an obvious error, as André was not executed until October 2d, and this letter describes his execution.
Beverly Robinson, son of John Robinson of Virginia. He married Susanna Phillipse and thus acquired fortune and part of the famous Phillipse estate. He was a strong Tory and colonel of the regiment of Royal Americans in the British service. After the Revolution he fled to England, where he died.
Joshua H. Smith, who had been employed by General Howe, Arnold’s predecessor, to gather intelligence. He had always been thought a loyal man, but Arnold succeeded in corrupting him.
A place about eight miles from Verplanck’s Point.
Paulding, Van Wart, and Williams.
Mrs. Arnold, as Hamilton supposed, was undoubtedly free from all complicity in her husband’s treason.
Isaac Sears was one of the early patriot leaders in New York, but never rose into distinction afterwards.
This letter is now first printed from the mutilated original in the possession of a gentleman in New York, to whose kindness I am indebted for the opportunity to publish it. I am unable to give the name of my kind correspondent, as his note, which accompanied the copy of the letter, has been unfortunately lost—a circumstance which I cannot sufficiently regret.
This famous letter to Hamilton’s father-in-law, General Schuyler, is now printed entire. It would have been perfectly justifiable to have destroyed or suppressed this letter altogether, for it was written by Hamilton when he was very angry, and had lost control of himself, so that the opinions here expressed do not in the least represent his real feeling about Washington, for whom he had the deepest reverence and affection, either at this or any other time. As Mr. J. C. Hamilton, however, saw fit to publish the letter, he should not have suppressed part; he should have given all or nothing. It is given here in its entirety from a copy of the original, made by Mr. James A. Hamilton, and which I found among the papers of my grandfather, Mr. Henry Cabot. The additional paragraphs now published for the first time are enclosed in brackets.
Lt.-Colonel Tench Tilghman, of Washington’s staff.
There is a break marked here in the edition of 1850, but my copy of the original letter does not indicate any omission
This letter is reprinted from the History of the Republic, ii., 187. It has no date except the year, but was evidently written just after the disagreement with Washington, of Feb. 16th, described in the preceding letter.
Reprinted from the History of the Republic, ii., 260.
Reprinted from the History of the Republic, ii., 275.
This was inclosed in the preceding letter. History of the Republic, ii., 279.
Col. Meade, of Virginia, was one of Washington’s confidential and trusted aides-de-camp. He was a gallant soldier and an intimate friend of Hamilton.
This letter is printed from the original in the possession of the New England Historical Genealogical Society [Knox MSS., vol. viii., pp. 170–172]. It has already been printed in the History of the Republic, ii., 284. The affair to which it refers was the murder of Captain Huddy, an American officer, by a party of refugees under the command of Captain Lippincott. The anger excited by this brutal outrage was intense, and Washington was so strongly moved, that he demanded from Sir Guy Carleton the surrender of Lippincott. This being refused, he ordered a British officer to be selected from among the prisoners and held in close confinement preparatory to execution if Sir Guy Carleton would not yield. The lot fell upon Captain Asgill, an officer of the Guards and a boy of nineteen. Captain Asgill was finally, released, as Washington could not bring himself to this act of retaliation, even as a last extremity, and the real culprit escaped. It was while Asgill was in prison with death hanging over him that Hamilton wrote this letter.
A merchant and army contractor of New York.
[°]See page 280.
This long and interesting letter is now first printed entire from the Hamilton papers in the State Department. A small portion beginning at the sentence, “The speculation of evils,” marked thus †, [page 277] and continuing to the end, has been printed in the edition of 1850, vol. 1., 295.
In those days of slow mails, this letter probably never reached Laurens, who fell near the Combahee in a skirmish Aug. 27th
Reprinted from the History of the Republic, ii., 300.
Now first printed from the Hamilton papers in the State Department.
This letter was partly printed in the edition of 1850. It is now completed from the History of the Republic, ii., 305. The added portions are inclosed in brackets.
The well-known Massachusetts soldier and statesman; at this time quarter-master-general.
Now first printed from the Hamilton papers in the State Department.
Louis Marie, Vicomte de Noailles, one of the most brilliant of the French officers in our Revolution. After his return to France he took an active part on the popular side in the Revolution, but fled in 1792, being then with the army, and took refuge in England and afterwards in the United States. His wife was guillotined in 1794. After the reign of terror was over he returned to France, had his name erased from the list of emigrés and took service again in the army. In 1803 he was sent to St. Domingo, and on his way thence to Cuba he was killed in an action with an English corvette.
At this time William Greene.
This letter was written by Hamilton as one of the committee of Congress to whom the matter was referred.
Reprinted from the History of the Republic, iii., 7.
Now first printed from the Clinton papers at Albany.
November 27, 1782, Congress directed Washington to apprehend and secure Luke Knowlton of Newfane and Samuel Wells of Brattle-borough, in the New Hampshire Grants, for being in a dangerous correspondence and intercourse with the enemy. This affair probably grew out of the trouble between New York and New Hampshire, and the inhabitants of what is now Vermont. There was a party among the people there which was said to aim at a union with the British provinces.
Jonathan Arnold, delegate from Rhode Island, but a resident of Vermont. He was not re-elected to Congress, but there is no means of knowing whether Hamilton's suspicions were correct.
The “inclosed” is the preceding letter.
now first printed from the knox papers
Thus divided in original in State Department.
In the edition of 1850 this letter is headed “To Reed,” presumably intending Joseph Reed; who was President of Pennsylvania in 1781. The original in the State Department has no address. The mutiny to which this refers was in 1783, the letter is dated 1783, and John Dickinson was President from 1782 to 1786. It seems obvious that this letter was written to the supreme magistrate of Pennsylvania, and if so it must have been to Dickinson.
These blanks are in the manuscript.
These blanks are in the manuscript.
This blank is in the manuscript.
“The words, as reported by the committee to Congress, were: ‘It,’ i. e., the arming of the citizens to suppress the mutineers, ߢwas not to be expected, merely from a repetition of the insult which had happened.’”;—note by col. pickering.
“Mr. Ellsworth was the other member of the committee.—t. p.”
Your Excellency will recollect that in our private conversation you urged this consideration, and appealed to my military experience, and that I made substantially the observations which follow.
Probably the well known New York publisher of that name.
Reprinted from W. Jay’s Life of John Jay, ii., 122.
This refers to the dispute as to the territory now forming the State of Vermont.
John Barker Church, who married Angelica Schuyler, the sister of Mrs. Hamilton, was an Englishman by birth: and Lossing (Life of Schuyler, ii., p. 207) says that his name was Carter, and that he added the Church in this country and dropped it when on a visit to England. There is also a letter signed John Carter, addressed to Hamilton, and dated May 18, 1781, which seems to confirm Lossing. Yet there can be no doubt that here he was known as John Barker Church, because he is so described by Hamilton in a letter to Troup about his will, and Mr. Geo. L. Schuyler, of New York, very kindly writes me that Church was called John Barker in the will of Mr. Schuyler’s grandfather, Gen. Schuyler. Church was associated with Col. Wadsworth in furnishing supplies to the French and American armies. Some time after his marriage, according to Lossing, he returned to England, became a member of Parliament, went much into society, and was a friend of the Prince of Wales and in the Carlton House set. He finally returned to New York where he remained until his death at an advanced age.
The Chancellor was Robert R. Livingston.
This bank thus formed was the Bank of New York.
Thomas Fitzsimmons, an eminent merchant of Philadelphia, was after a leading member of Congress and always a stanch supporter and friend of Hamilton.
There is a slice cut out of the body of the letter here.
Now first printed from the Hamilton papers in the State Department.
François Jean, Marquis de Chastellux, was one of the most distinguished of our French allies; he was born in 1734, and died in 1788. He was something of a literary man, and left, among other works, an entertaining account of his adventures in this country. He became Marquis in the year 1784.
Colonel Matthew Clarkson, of New York, a distinguished officer of the Revolution, born in 1759; died in 1825. He was aid-de-camp to General Gates, and severely wounded at the battle of Stillwater.
Reprinted from the Reminiscences of Jas. A. Hamilton, p. 2.
This letter is given in the edition of 1850 as addressed to John Wilkes, but as he was never in this country, the first sentence, “the message which you sent me yesterday and your letter today,” shows that it could not have been written to John Wilkes, but must have been addressed to some one in New York. The following letter, now first printed from the Hamilton papers in the State Department, throws light on the subject:
New York, June 18, 1784.
I have been duly honored with your letter of the 30th of March, and am much flattered by the confidence you have reposed in me. I should with pleasure have undertaken to execute your wishes had I been in a situation that left me at liberty to do it; but it has happened that Mr. Wilkes, some time since, applied to me on the same subject; and though I was not absolutely retained by him, yet as I have been consulted on the business, I should conceive it improper to act against him. In this dilemma, as you were at a great distance, and he might elude your pursuit before you could make a new choice of a person to manage the affair for you, I thought it my duty to transfer the trust to some person on the spot, to whose judgment and integrity your interests might be safely committed. I have fixed upon Mr. Samuel Jones 1 for this purpose, a gentleman as distinguished for his probity as for his professional knowledge, and have accordingly substituted him in my place.
He has had Mr. Wilkes arrested upon your demand, who, not being able to obtain bail, is of course, in prison. This has been done in pursuance of your intimation that Mr. Wilkes’ friends are able to do something for him; and it is to be hoped that, rather than suffer him to be in jail, they will either satisfy or become bound for at least a part of your demand. This seems to be your only resource; for he has no property in this country, and has been of late in no way of acquiring any.
He did not (as you had been informed) accompany Mrs. Hayley 2 to this country; but it is reported that she has lately arrived at Boston.
I am requested by Mr. Jones to mention to you that it will be necessary you should furnish him with the account of sales rendered by Mr. Wilkes, and, at the same time, with the bills of exchange which he accepted. He wishes to be possessed of these as evidence in case of a controverted suit. You mention that the bills of exchange were sent to New York, but you do not say to whom. On tracing the matter, we have reason to conclude they were sent to Mr. McAdam; but as he is now in England, we cannot have recourse to him to obtain them. Circumstanced as I am, I must now take leave of this business, without acting hereafter on either side.
But as a just representation of facts is always most conducive to the settlement of disputes, and may enable you the better to judge what course it will be proper for you to pursue, I think it incumbent upon me, from the confidence you have been pleased to repose in me, to inform you that I have taken pains to ascertain the quality and condition of the wines of both cargoes on their arrival in this country; and the result of my inquiries of gentlemen who could not be mistaken in the matter, and on whose veracity I can depend, has been that the wine of the second, as well as the first, cargo was in general either damaged or of indifferent quality, and necessarily sold at very low rates.
I am inclined to suspect that Mr. Wilkes’ intention will be to endeavor to procure an act of insolvency in his favor at the next meeting of the Legislature (continuing in the meantime in confinement), and that he will in this expectation rather discourage his friends from becoming sureties for him.
I think, with proper management on the part of those concerned for you, it will be very difficult for him to succeed in this scheme; but moderation in your behalf will be best calculated to frustrate the experiment, and lay him under a necessity of calling in the aid of his friends.
I persuade myself you will do justice to the motives of these intimations, and, though I have it not in my power to serve you upon the present occasion, will permit me to make you an offer of my best services upon every other, and to assure you that I am, with much consideration and esteem, etc. 1
wilkes to hamilton
November 9, 1785.
The moment I received yours, I perceived the precipitancy of my own conduct, and was very sorry I had so far mistaken both our characters as to act in the manner I have done. I flatter myself that the same candor which has dictated yours will be exerted towards mine, and that you will only view it as the act of a man who conceived himself injured. As you have never experienced the cruel reverses of fortune, you can scarcely judge how the least insinuations to their prejudice will affect those persons who have; or how much more suspicious they are of the behavior of mankind towards them.
The morning I left the message for you I had been called upon by one of the creditors of Mr. Heart, who thought it very strange no dividend was made; and he insinuated some party must be interested in the delay. It is the first money transaction I have engaged in since my release. I felt the insinuation as alluding to me, and with a force which, perhaps, I should not. However, that moment I went to your office.
The next morning, when I saw your note to Mr. Atkinson, and found myself totally set aside in a business where I had, most undoubtedly, been originally neglected, I felt myself very much agitated, and in that frame of mind I wrote my last to you.
So much I thought it necessary to add in explanation.
I am convinced now I have been too hasty, and I am sorry for it. It will put me on my guard in future, and, I make no doubt, prove beneficial to me, provided it has not been the means of hurting me in your estimation, which I am now more desirous than ever of obtaining.
I am, sir, etc.
Hamilton’s early friend and employer.
Mr. Hallwood’s grandfather was Mr. James Lytton, as it here appears, and Mr. Hallwood was a relative of Hamilton. In the appendix to my Life of Hamilton (American Statesmen Series), p. 294, I have discussed, in connection with the question of his parentage, his relationship to the Lyttons. This letter tends to show that, if the view there suggested is probable, Hamilton’s mother was a Miss Lytton, and not Miss Faucette. This letter is valuable only on this account, for it proves beyond a peradventure Hamilton’s relationship to the Lyttons, which is mentioned by Mr. John C. Hamilton in the first and unfinished Life, but which is omitted in the History of the Republic.
Now first printed from the Hamilton papers in the State Department.
Addressed presumably to the second of Major Peirce in the affair of honor which seems to have been impending between that gentleman and Hamilton’s friend Mr. Auldjo.
Now first printed from the Hamilton papers in the State Department.
The eminent statesman of Massachusetts and New York. He was always one of Hamilton’s most intimate friends.
Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth, of Connecticut, Commissary-General in the Revolutionary army, delegate to the Continental, and member of the National, Congress. By his reply to this letter it appears that the person whom Hamilton calls Whitmore was named Wetmore.
In his reply to this letter, Washington says: “But as you say it is insinuated by some of your political adversaries and may obtain public credit, ’that you palmed yourself upon me and was dismissed from my family,’ and call upon me to do you justice by a recital of the facts, I do therefore explicitly declare that both charges are entirely unfounded.”
This allusion is to The Federalist
This interesting letter, now first printed, I owe to the kindness of Mr. George Clarendon Hodges, of Boston, the possessor of the original.
Nathaniel Chipman, of Vermont, was born in Connecticut, in 1752, and died in 1843. He was a soldier of the Revolution and a distinguished lawyer and statesman. He was Chief-Justice of Vermont and Senator from that State. The letter to which this is a reply related to the question of the New York grants. In 1789 Mr. Chipman was appointed to settle the differences with New York, and two years later was one of the Commissioners to arrange for the admission of Vermont into the Union.
These papers constituted The Federalist.
A New York merchant, and one of the well-known family of that name.
Theodore Sedgwick, of Massachusetts, afterwards member of Congress, Speaker of the House, and a judge of the Supreme Court of his native State. He was a staunch Federalist and an ardent friend of Hamilton.