Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to John Adams, 16 August 1792

To John Adams

Philadelphia Augt 16 1792

Dear Sir

I have been duly favoured with your letter of the 4th Instant.1 A warrant for 1000 dollars in your favour has issued.2 If any authorisation from you had been sent to your son3 or any one else, your signature on the warrant would have been unnecessary. But as it is, it will be indispensable. Perhaps however the Treasurer may pay in expectation of it.

The Question when the Vice President entered upon the duties of his office, is open at the Treasury; though an opinion has obtained that the taking of the Oath was the Criterion. This has been founded on two considerations—analogy to the case of the President. The Constitution requires that he shall take an oath, before he enters upon the execution of his Office. He cannot enter upon the duties of it, without entering upon the execution of it, and he can’t legally do the latter till he has taken the oath prescribed. The same injunction however is not laid upon the Vice President, and therefore except by analogy, resort must be had to the second consideration, namely that the taking of the Oath of Office is the legal act of aceptance, and may be supposed to date the commencment of service.

But this reasoning it must be confessed is not conclusive, and therefore the opinion of the Attorney General will be taken, both as to the President & Vice President—and I presume will guide in the Adjustment.

Twenty thousand dollars have been appropriated4 and the advances by anticipation may reach that limit.

You forgot that Mr Clinton could feast upon what would starve another.5 He will not however have an opportunity of making the experiment. And I hope the starvation policy will not long continue fashionable.

Your confirmation of the good disposition of New England is a source of satisfaction. I have a letter from a well informed friend in Virginia who says, all the persons I converse with, acknowlege that the people are prosperous & happy, and yet most of them, including even the friends of the Govt. appear to be much alarmed at a supposed system of policy, tending to subvert the Republican Govt of the Country.6 Were ever Men more ingenious to torment themselves with phantoms?

Adieu my dear Sir, & believe me always very respectfully & Affectionately   Yr Obed sevt


The Vice President

Copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Letter not found.

2Warrant No. 2012 for a payment of one thousand dollars of Adams’s salary was dated August 15, 1792. See “Report on an Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of the United States for the Year 1792,” December 18, 1793.

3Thomas Boylston Adams, John Adams’s youngest son, remained in Philadelphia during the summer and fall of 1792. In a letter to his father on August 16 he referred to the problem of obtaining the payment of Adams’s salary: “The Secretary of the Treasury has so arranged matters, that you will be at liberty to draw for a thou⟨san⟩d Dollars when you think fit. I presume the warrant may ⟨be received⟩ by Attorney. The Secretary however will probably acquaint you with ⟨the⟩ most practicable method” (ALS, Adams Family Papers, deposited in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston). On September 10, 1792, in a letter to his father he again referred to this matter: “I called this day upon Mr. Hamilton concerning the Warrant for 1000 Dollars which at my request was prepared for presentment at the Treasury for Payt. and only wanted a single line under your hand, in order to its being paid.… I have been expecting this authority for some time past, but as it has not arrived, feel somewhat anxious lest the circumstance should have slipped your memory” (ALS, Adams Family Papers, deposited in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston).

4Section 1 of “An Act for allowing a Compensation to the President and Vice President of the United States” reads as follows: “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled, That there shall be allowed to the President of the United States, at the rate of twenty-five thousand dollars, with the use of the furniture and other effects now in his possession, belonging to the United States; and to the Vice President, at the rate of five thousand dollars per annum, in full compensation for their respective services, to commence with the time of their entering on the duties of their offices respectively, and to continue so long as they shall remain in office, and to be paid quarterly out of the treasury of the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 72 [September 24, 1789]).

5This is a reference to the vice presidential candidacy of Governor George Clinton of New York.

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