Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from William Short, 26 November 1790

From William Short

Amsterdam, Nov. 26, 1790


I took the liberty of acknowleging the reciept of your letters of Aug. 29th. and Sept. 1st. through the Secretary of State who I begged at the same time to inform you that I was preparing immediately to obey them.1 I beg leave to refer you also to him (to whom I had an unexpected opportunity of writing yesterday2 by the way of France) for what has been done in consequence of your letter of Aug. 29th. I hope it will meet your approbation, which I shall be extremely solicitous, as you may be assured Sir to merit on all occasions.

I asked the favor of the Secretary of State also in my letter of yesterday to inform you of my arrival here on the 20th. inst. & the causes of my departure from Paris being procrastinated.3 He will communicate also an article that I thought it best to cypher, as this letter will go through several posts & as some of the European governments have little delicacy in abusing the trust of letters confided to their post.

By a vessel which sails from this place for the United States I shall do myself the honor of writing you in a few days. I shall then be able to give you more accurate information than I am now possessed of on several subjects. You may be fully assured sir that I shall lose no time in making you such communications as you may desire, & particularly those which require expedition for the reasons mentioned in your letter of Sep 1.

I beg you to be persuaded of the sentiments of respect & attachment with which I have the honor to be   Sir, Your most obedient   humble servant

W Short

The Honble. Alexander Hamilton Esqr.

ALS, letterpress copy, William Short Papers, Library of Congress.

1On October 30, 1790, Short wrote to Thomas Jefferson:

“It is merely to inform you & to beg you to inform the Secretary of the Treasury that I have received at length his letters of Aug. 29 & Sept 1.… I will ask the favor of you also to mention to the Secretary of the Treasury that I shall write to him immediately on my arrival at the place of my destination.” (ALS, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.)

2On November 25, 1790, Short wrote to Jefferson:

“I mentioned to you in my last the reasons which induced me not to defer the payment intended to be made to the French treasury. I hope they will have met your approbation as it seems to me the circumstances there mentioned left no alternative. Previous to my leaving Paris, it was agreed between M. de Montmorin, M [Bertrand] du Fresne, Directeur du Trésor Royal, & myself, that this money should be remitted to him by bills of exchange, & orders were given in consequence. On my arrival here I found that bills for upwards of two millions of livres had been already remitted, on terms highly advantageous owing to the present rate of exchange, which is such that the 1½ million of florins will produce about three million six hundred thousand livres. The balance would have been remitted by the two following posts; but last night I received a letter from M. Du Fresne informing me that having to pay 570,000 florins the fifth of next month at Amsterdam, on account of the loan made by France for the service of the United States, he wished I would give orders to our bankers to pay that sum here ‘afin d’eviter les pertes du change qui sont enormes dans ce moment ici.’ This letter was soon followed by a visit from the French bankers charged with this business. I informed them that I had already given orders to our bankers previous to my departure from Paris in consequence of my agreement with M. du Fresne—that they had already made considerable remittances, but that if they had a sufficiency in their hands I did not doubt they would readily comply with M. du Fresne’s desire. It had been agreed on with our bankers that the others should be referred to them on this footing, as it would prevent my entering into any discussion relative to the exchange which I wished to do, as what was loss for France was gain for us. They have agreed to day that the French bankers should receive the sum here in florins & give an order for it in livres on M. du Fresne so that the U.S. may be credited for it with the present benefit of exchange. I know not whether this will square with Du Fresne’s ideas, however it is so rigorously just that he can have no right to complain.

“I will thank you to communicate this matter to the Secretary of the treasury. I do not write to him by the present conveyance because it is uncertain whether my letter will arrive in time at the Texel, & also because as yet I have only general ideas on the several objects to which he directed my attention. I have not as yet proposed a loan because I chose first to examine the ground, & also to see whether it was proper to continue the business in the present hands. We are to have a meeting tomorrow which will probably decide the matter. The rate of interest will be certainly five per ct. The commission & other charges I hope may be reduced below 4½. I will inform the Secretary of the Treasury immediately on any thing being concluded on.” (ALS, letterpress copy, William Short Papers, Library of Congress.)

3On November 25, 1790, Short wrote to Jefferson:

“I was detained at Paris much longer than I had expected by the continuation of the conferences begun at the Marquis de la fayette’s as mentioned in my No 46. Nothwithstanding my anxiety to arrive here I found it impossible to avoid postponing my departure from one day to another, as conferences were daily proposed (although frequently interrupted by the present accumulation of affairs in the assembly) & as M. de Montmorin & M. de la fayette both insisted on my continuing them. On the whole I had no reason to be dissatisfied with these conferences as they produced an evident change in the minds & disposition of many who have influence in the assembly. I regretted only that this business could not have been advanced to its present stage some time sooner so as not to have delayed my departure for this place.

“The discussion of the report of the committee of imposition on tobacco fixed as the order of the day almost every day since my last & constantly interrupted by incidental matters was begun on the 13th inst. as you will see by the journals of the assembly which will be forwarded to you as well with the other papers from Paris. I have seen here the debates on it as low as the 16th. It had been then interrupted & resumed. The papers as low as the 19th. give no later account of that business. The diplomatick committee, as had been agreed on out of the assembly, asked to give their ideas on it & are to be heard—they will take up the subject on political principles, & by shewing that tobacco is the strongest commercial link between France & the United States, argue that it must be made use of so as to fortify their political connexions also, which are necessarily dependent thereon. It has been moved also & carried in the assembly that the question of the cultivation of tobacco in France should be adjourned until the committee of imposition shall have reported their plan for supplying the place of this revenue. This motion was made by a member (Barneve) who is for prohibiting the culture. Should this prohibition however be continued, & consequently the farm, considerable changes will be made in the system & particularly with a view to their commerce with the U. S. now that they consider it as worth making some sacrifices for.” (ALS, letterpress copy, William Short Papers, Library of Congress.)

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