Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to James Watson, 9 October 1792

To James Watson1

Philadelphia October 9

My Dear Sir

I was very glad to find your name on the list of Directors of The Manufacturing Society.2 I trust it will be in your power to give a portion of your time and attention to it; from which I am persuaded it will profit.

When I was last at New Ark,3 I thought I perceived something like an intention to bring forward Mr. Samuel Ogden4 as Superintendant of the Manufactory. To you I do not scruple to say that in my judgment it would be fatal to the Society.

1 Mr. Ogden is without exception one of the most opiniated men I ever knew. On this particular subject he seems to think there is nobody, but himself, who has a single rational Idea. In one week, he would drive L’Enfant5 off the ground. Already he has affirmed that L’Enfant knows nothing of Water works, when it is well known that he was regularly bred to this, as a part of his profession. He is by Trade what is called in France a civil Engineer that is an Artist acquainted with Mechanics generally; particularly in reference to Architecture Aqueducts Canals &c &c including necessarily a knowlege of Hydraulicks. This is the mans profession, & from my knowlege of him I rely that he will undertake nothing which he is not able to execute solidly and well. I should therefore deem it a misfortune that any thing should happen to deprive the Society of his Services.

2 Mr. Ogden is generally what may be called a Projector & of course not a man of sound views.

3 He has a multiplicity of other affairs and s[c]hemes on hand and would not be a totus homo to the Institution.

4 He is extremely disliked by all the persons who are to be at the head of the particular branches of the Manufactory which has proceeded from his overbearing and excessive pretensions.

5 He is a man too much addicted to hospitality and conviviality, and does not possess those habits of minute attention regular disapline & strict œcononomy which are essential to such an undertaking. He is particularly deficient in the talent of making the most of the labour of a number of hands. On this last point I speak from the most authentic information founded on experience. This in especial confidence.

You are however at liberty to make known my opinion & the reasons of it substantially to Walker, Clarkson, Le Roy—& with somewhat more of caution to Rickets.6

Yours with sincere esteem & regard

A Hamilton

James Watson Esqr

ALS, National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, Washington, D.C.

1Watson, a New York City merchant and bank director, was a stockholder in the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures.

2Watson had been elected a director of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures on October 3, 1792. The election was recorded in the society’s minutes for October 12, 1792 (“Minutes of the S.U.M.,” description begins MS minutes of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures, City of Paterson, New Jersey, Plant Management Commission, Successors to the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures. description ends 52–53, 72).

3H had been in Newark, New Jersey, in early October.

4Ogden, who was the brother-in-law of Gouverneur Morris and the founder of Ogdensburg, New York, was a New Jersey iron manufacturer and land speculator. From 1789 to 1791 Ogden was the manager of Robert Morris’s manufacturing establishment on the Delaware River near Morrisville, Pennsylvania. On July 6, 1792, Robert Morris noted that he had agreed to buy Ogden’s share in the “Delaware Works” since the enterprise had proved unsuccessful under Ogden’s management. A part of the payment for Ogden’s share was arranged when Morris assumed full responsibility for a loan made by the Bank of North America in 1789, which had been “borrowed at Mr. Ogdens request for the use of the said Delaware Works, under his most solemn promise that no part thereof should be applied to any other use” (D, partly in the handwriting of Robert Morris, Wastebook, 1792–1796, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia).

5Pierre Charles L’Enfant had been appointed to superintend the erection of the works of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures.

6Benjamin Walker, Matthew Clarkson, Herman Le Roy, and James Ricketts were directors of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures.

Index Entries