Alexander Hamilton, John Laurance, Morgan Lewis,
and Richard Varick to Thomas Mifflin1
[New York, December 10, 1783]
Being concerned as Council for a number of persons, who, since the annunciation of the provisional treaty have been indicted under the confiscation laws of this state for the part they are supposed to have taken in the late war,2 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.3 We take it for granted that ere this it will have been proclaimed for the information and direction of the respective states; but as there is a great strictness in the Courts of this State, it will we apprehend, be necessary to be able to produce an ex⟨emplif⟩ication 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 us 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 within the time 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.
We have the honor to be with perfect respect Your Excellency’s Most Obedient and humble servants
December 10th. 1783
His Excellency The President of Congress
LS, in the writing of H, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives; DfS, in the writing of H, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress. The draft, dated December 8, differs in minor respects from the receiver’s copy.
1. Laurance, Lewis, and Varick, like H, were New York lawyers. Mifflin was at this time President of Congress.
2. As early as 1775, the Provincial Congress of New York had provided for the sequestration of Tory property and had appointed commissioners of sequestration in seven counties. Subsequent laws disfranchised the Loyalists, provided for the removal or imprisonment of dangerous adherents to the King, and disbarred Loyalist lawyers. Confiscation was provided for by an act passed October 22, 1779, which attainted many Loyalists and made their estates forfeit. The extensiveness of anti-Tory legislation in New York is revealed by a 186-page volume. Entitled Laws of the Legislature of the State of New York in Force Against the Loyalists and Affecting the Trade of Great Britain (London, 1786), it reprints twenty-four Tory laws and eight trade laws of 1778 to 1785.
3. The definitive treaty had arrived on November 22, 1783, but because of the lack of a quorum ratification was delayed until January 14, 1784.