Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to William Short, 5 March 1792

To William Short

Treasury Department
March 5th 1792


Since my last of the 14th ultimo I have the pleasure of your two letters of the 8th & 12th of Novemer.

The reimbursement of the Spanish Debt1 will be perfectly acceptable, but there will be matter for regret, if before this reaches you the sum claimed by the Farmer’s General has been paid to them.2

There is certainly a million of livres in the pecuniary transactions between the United States and France acknowledged as a subsidy, which remains unaccounted for,3 with some ground of conjecture that it is the same Million which constitutes the claim of the Farmers General. This affair, though it has heretofore been moved, has never received any satisfactory solution. It is however proper in every view that such a solution should be had. And the documents are preparing, on which to found a regular application, concerning it, to the French Court. In the mean time, the payment to the Farmers General, if not made, ought to be forborne.

I observe that you would have shortly reached the point when by your instructions you would cease to be at liberty to continue the reimbursements to France upon loans made at 4½ per Cent exclusive of charges.4 I shall be glad to find that the accomplishment of a loan at 4 per Cent has prevented that instruction proving an obstacle to further payments.

But if this should not have been the case, and if the rate of exchange shall have been so fixed with France as that it may prove an equivalent for the charges and the additional half per Cent you may proceed in borrowing on the terms of the Antwerp Loan5 to an extent sufficient to discharge the intire debt to France.

The condition which is here made is deemed necessary to justify the executive in regard to the construction of the law6 and public opinion. And when it is considered, that immense loss was sustained in realizing here the sums borrowed abroad during the war in many instances to the extent of 40 per Cent, it cannot appear extraordinary that some attention is paid to conditions of advantageous reimbursement—especially of the part which is not yet due.

It must be proper to unite liberality towards France with an equitable regard to the interest of the United States.

With very great consideration & esteem. I have the honor to be   Sir   Your obed servt

Alexander Hamilton

William Short Esquire
&ca. &ca.

ALS, William Short Papers, Library of Congress. A copy of this letter was enclosed in H’s “Report on Foreign Loans,” February 13, 1793.

1See Short to H, November 12, 1791. For a description of the Spanish debt, see H to Short, September 1, 1790, note 19.

2See Short to H, November 12, 1791. For a description of the loan from the French Farmers-General, see H to Short, September 1, 1790, note 26.

3For an account of the so-called lost million, see the introductory note to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., to H, March 29, 1792.

5For a description of the Antwerp loan, see Short to H, November 8, 1791, note 4, and November 12, 1791. See also Short to H, December 1, 1791.

6Section 2 of “An Act making provision for the (payment of the) Debt of the United States” reads in part as follows: “Be it further enacted, That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby authorized, to cause to be borrowed on behalf of the United States, a sum or sums, not exceeding in the whole twelve million of dollars; and that so much of this sum as may be necessary to the discharge of the said arrears and instalments [of the foreign debt], and (if it can be effected upon terms advantageous to the United States) to the paying off the whole of the said foreign debt …” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 139 [August 4, 1790]).

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