Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Thomas Mifflin, 3 December 1792

To Thomas Mifflin

Philadelphia December 3. 1792


I beg you to accept my thanks, for the perusal of the papers you sent me, which I herewith return.1

The extracts from the charges to grand Juries are new to me. The correspondence between Mr. Addison and Mr. Clymer, I had before seen.2

While I found cause to regret the nature of the discussion, which had taken place, and could not but think the strictures on the Judicial Authority of the Government of the United States and on the System, which had been adopted under that authority, as not unexceptionable in the Judge of a State Court,3 I concluded, that to avoid a disclosure of the correspondence, would best comport with that careful cultivation of harmony and good humour, between the General and the particular Governments, and their respective officers, which it is evident is of the greatest importance to the public welfare; and I acted in conformity to this Idea.

How far the same consideration ought to have weight in referrence to the communication, which you mentioned to me, it was your intention to make to the House of Representatives of Pensylvania,4 or how far there may be considerations of public utility sufficient to overrule any objection which may seem to arise from that source—it is not for me to determine.

With the most perfect respect   I have the honor to be Sir Your most obedient   & most humble servant

Alexander Hamilton

His Excellency Governor Mifflin

ALS, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

2See “Draft of a Proclamation Concerning Opposition to the Excise Law,” September 7, 1792; George Washington to Mifflin, September 29, 1792.

On October 5, 1792, Mifflin instructed the judges of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court “to charge the Grand Juries of the several counties within your district, to enquire into and present all offences of the nature to which the Proclamation refers” (Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV description begins Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV (n.p., 1876). description ends , 35). Presumably the charges to which H is referring were those made by the state judges in accordance with Mifflin’s orders.

H had learned of the correspondence between Alexander Addison, presiding judge of the County Court of the western district of Pennsylvania, and George Clymer, supervisor of the revenue for the District of Pennsylvania, through several letters that Clymer had sent to H. See Clymer to H, September 28, October 4, 10, 1792.

3This is a reference to the “strictures” made by Addison. In a letter to Mifflin, enclosing charges to grand juries, Addison wrote: “I have long entertained an opinion which the most serious reflection, (and I have given it a serious reflection,) has not altered but confirmed, that the powers of the federal courts in the extent given them by the judicial laws of the Union are useless or dangerous. Useless, because the State courts are capable in a proper manner of discharging almost all their duties. Dangerous, because if they exercise their powers they must either destroy the essence of the trial by Jury, or swallow up the state courts” (Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV description begins Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV (n.p., 1876). description ends , 38). See also Clymer to H, October 4, 1792, note 5.

4See “Extract from Governor Mifflin’s Annual Message,” December 7, 1792 (Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV description begins Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV (n.p., 1876). description ends , 52–54).

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