Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Oliver Wolcott, Junior, 22 June 1792

From Oliver Wolcott, Junior

T. D
C. Off June 22d 1792


I have the honour to enclose for your inspection a statement of the Loans recd. by the United States from the Government of France with a calculation of the Interest due thereon to the 1st. day of January 1792.1 In this statement no notice is taken of the advances made at the Treasury of the United States or of the remittances by the Dutch Commissioners2 on account of said Loans.

In the account transmitted by Mr. Short,3 I observe that the following charges are made for advances to the United States which it is said the French Government has assumed to discharge.

livre tournois s d
By the Directors of the Powder Magazines 196.481. .15. 3
By the Department of War 1.052.345: 11: 6
By the Administration for Clothing the Troops 134.065: 7. 6
By the Farmers General 846.770: 14 5
And for Interest on the above mentioned
sums from Sept. 3d. 1783. to Decr. 31st. 1791
@ 5 per Cent
928.095. 0. 0
amounting to livre tournois 3.157.758. 0. 0

On those charges I think it proper to observe, that the Government of France, retained the sum of Five millions of Livres out of the Loan of ten millions,4 to pay for certain articles of Cloathing and Military Stores which were ordered by Col. Laurens for the use of the United States.5 It will appear from the inclosed account which has been extracted from the Books of Thomas Barclay6 Comr. of Foreign Accounts, that the French Government has already recd. Credit for the two first mentioned sums, and that the third is a balance appearing due to the French Government on account of the excess of the supplies recd. above the Five millions which were retained out of the Loan.

To the claim for this balance of livre tournois134.065.7 the United States have however a just right to oppose a much more considerable demand which remains to be liquidated between the two governments, for supplies furnished to the Marine of France, under the agency of Jno. Holker Esq. late Consul General.8

It is much to be desired that some arrangement for effecting a settlement should be soon concerted, and from the nature of the claim and the evidence by which it is to be supported, it is my opinion that it ought to be adjusted in this Country.

I had the honour to transmit to you on the 29th. of March, sundry documents relating to the claim of the Farmers General, as the balance of their account now appears to have been assumed by the French Government, it appears to be necessary to ascertain whether the Loan by the Farmers General was not comprehended as a part of the aid granted before the Treaty of February 1778, and if not so comprehended, to demand a disclosure of the person to whom one million of Livres which has not been brought to the Credit of the United States, was paid.9

I have &c

N. B.   It is supposed that the claim for supplies furnished the Marine of France may amount to about 200,000 Dollars.10

Hon A H.

ADf, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford; two copies, William Short Papers, Library of Congress.

1A copy of this enclosure may be found in RG 217, Oliver Wolcott’s “Explanation of Accounts, 1792–1794,” Comptroller of the Treasury, National Archives.

2Wilhelm and Jan Willink, Nicholaas and Jacob Van Staphorst, and Nicholas Hubbard.

5In December, 1780, Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens was commissioned by Congress Envoy Extraordinary to France. He arrived in Paris in March, 1781, and succeeded in securing supplies for the United States.

6On November 18, 1782, Congress had appointed Barclay commissioner to settle the accounts of the United States in Europe. Wolcott is referring to two ledger volumes of accounts which Barclay settled in Europe (D, RG 39, Foreign Ledgers, Public Agents in Europe, 1776–1787, National Archives).

7This account appears on Folio 359 of the ledger containing foreign accounts settled by Thomas Barclay (D, RG 39, Foreign Ledgers, Public Agents in Europe, 1776–1787, National Archives).

8For a summary of John Holker’s business activities, see H to Thomas FitzSimons, June 20, 1792.

Some of the purchases which Holker made in the United States as marine agent of France were made through the commissary department under instructions from the Continental Congress (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XVI, 251). Holker’s account with the United States was not easily settled, for while he had been willing to pay when he had submitted his account to the Board of Treasury in July, 1780, he refused to make allowances for depreciation when Jeremiah Wadsworth, the commissary general of purchases, finally presented the account. The length of time that Wadsworth required to collect vouchers resulted in a loss through depreciation which according to the Board of Treasury amounted “at the lowest computation to half a million dollars” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XVI, 336–38; XVII, 606).

9For an explanation of the difficulties surrounding the claim of the Farmers-General, see the introductory note to Wolcott to H, March 29, 1792.

10In 1794 this account was stated as amounting to $183,119.36 (copy, RG 217, Miscellaneous Treasury Accounts, 1790–1894, Account No. 5878, National Archives). An adjustment in 1795 gave additional credit for old emissions paid by Holker and reduced the total to $156,539.89 (copy, RG 217, Miscellaneous Treasury Accounts, 1790–1894, Account No. 6855, National Archives).

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