Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Jonathan Trumbull, 25 February 1793

To Jonathan Trumbull

Treasury Department
February 25th. 1793.


I beg leave through you, to observe to the House of Representatives, that the statements communicated by my first and second letter in answer to their resolutions of the 23d. of January last which were printed by order of the House, have been printed in an incorrect and very confused manner.

In page 4 of my first letter,1 a sum of 605,883 dollars and eight cents is expressed as 60583 Dollars and eight cents.

The Mercantile form of Debtor and Creditor sides, which was observed in the Accounts transmitted, and which is material to perspicuity, has been dropped and a statement in succession; of the oposite sides of the account substituted. In addition to this, headings have been introduced, which are not in the originals, and these headings have been in one important case inverted.

In statement A, transmitted with my first letter, Receipts have been put for Expenditures, and Expenditures for Receipts. Other inaccuracies, less material, might be noticed.

The effect of relinquishing the mercantile form of an account current will be perceived at once, upon an Inspection of either of the statements, but it will be particularly striking in statement No II of my second letter,2 shewing half yearly the application of the fund for reducing the public debt, constituted by the Act of the 8th. of May last.3

It was the practice ’till the present session to send to the Treasury proof sheets of the reports from the Department, which were printed by direction of the House, in order to their being examined and corrected, before they were finally struck off. This useful practice, however has been discontinued, during the present session.

The House will be at no loss to perceive that their own satisfaction, on any point of inquiry, the due information of the public, and the reputation of the department, from which any report or statement proceeds, are alike concerned in the accuracy of the form, under which it is presented.

With a particular eye to the last consideration, I take the liberty to express a wish to the House, that some regulation may be adopted to enable the head of this department, to secure the fidelity and correctness of the printed copies of the reports, which shall hereafter be made to the House and shall be committed to the press by their order.4

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

Alexander Hamilton,
Secretary of the Treasury.

The Honble
The Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Copy, RG 233, Reports of the Secretary of the Treasury, 1784–1795, Vol. IV, National Archives; copy, RG 233, Reports of the Secretary of the Treasury, Second Congress, National Archives.

3“An Act supplementary to the act making provision for the Debt of the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 281–83).

4This letter was referred to a committee of the House of Representatives, which issued the following report on March 2, 1793:

“That they have examined into the circumstances stated in the letter, and find

“That the standing order of the Clerk of this House to the printer is, to send the proof sheets of all reports and statements to the department from whence they were made; and that this practice has been generally followed.

“That it has been discontinued during the present session (so far as respects the Secretary of the Treasury) from an opinion of the printer, that the delay which the examination would occasion might interfere with the intention of the House, of having the business speedily accomplished.

“It did not appear to the Committee that any unnecessary delay had taken place at the office of the Comptroller, by reason of the examination of the proof sheets, nor in the printer, in the transaction of his business.

“The Committee are of opinion, that it is not necessary for them to recommend any new regulation for the future execution of this business, but in order to rectify the errors which have taken place in the printed reports and statements, the Committee recommend the following resolution:

“Resolved, that there be printed, under the direction of the Secretary of the Treasury, three hundred copies of the reports and statements made by him, during the present session; and that the same be delivered to the Clerk of this House.” (Copy, RG 233, Reports of Select Committees, Second Congress, National Archives.)

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