Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to John Armstrong, Junior, 1 April 1793

To John Armstrong, Junior1

Philadelphia April 1

Dear Sir

The President has left here a Blank Commission for Supervisor of New York, with his signature, & with instruction to fill it up either in your name or that of Nicholas Fish, giving you the first option.2

I am therefore to request, that you will inform me as speedily as possible, whether the appointment is acceptable to you.

The present gross emoluments of it may amount to about 1300 Dollars of which 900 is salary. The whole duties of it may be performed by one person and in this case the nett emolument may be computed at 1200 Dollars. But as there is a considerable deal of Clerkship, the time of the person would then be pretty fully occupied. If the hire of a Clerk is to be defrayed out [of] the compensation, it would of course constitute a material deduction.

You will perceive that the emolument is not tempting. A main inducement therefore to the acceptance of the office would be the probability of growing importance. I contemplate that all future interior taxes are to be put under the superintendence of the Supervisor. The office will consequently become more important (now very respectable) and more lucrative. But how speedy the progress would be a very loose conjecture.

It is deemed necessary that the residence of the Supervisor should be at New York.

As Mr Morris3 is impatient to be released, I request your prompt decision. I need not add that it will give me pleasure, if in favour of acceptance.

With much esteem & regard   I remain Dear Sir   Your obedient servant

Alex Hamilton

PS   It is the President’s wish that the offer may remain a secret, for a time at least, if not accepted.

[John] Armstrong [junr]4

ALS, from the Rokeby Collection, Barrytown, Dutchess County, New York, courtesy of Mr. Richard Aldrich and others; Df, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford; copy, George W. Campbell Papers, Library of Congress.

1After service in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, Armstrong became secretary of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania. In 1789 he married Alida Livingston, a sister of Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, and settled in Red Hook, New York, where he became a farmer. In spite of the steadily increasing enmity between his wife’s family and the Federalist Administration in the early seventeen-nineties, Armstrong remained for some years a stanch Federalist. On April 8, 1793, Tobias Lear wrote to George Washington concerning Armstrong’s appointment: “Colo. Hamilton asked me some days ago whether I heard you mention the mode which you wished should be pursued with respect to the Commissions for the Supervisor of New York. I told him I had heard you say that you should desire him to write to Mr. Armstrong offering him the appointment and at the same time enclose a letter for Colo. [Nicholas] Fish, in Mr. Armstrong’s, with a request that he would cause it to be delivered to Colo. Fish in case he should himself decline the appointment. Colo. H. observed that he had understood something of that Kind from you; but that he was not certain whether you had desired him to write or not—however he was now convinced from what I observed that you intend he should do so and that he would accordingly do it” (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress). On April 23, 1793, Thomas Jefferson sent to Armstrong his commission as supervisor of the revenue for New York (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 5, February 4, 1792–December 31, 1793, National Archives). A copy of the commission is also in the Rokeby Collection, Barrytown, Dutchess County, New York.

2An entry in JPP description begins “Journal of the Proceedings of the President,” George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends for April 26, 1793, reads as follows: “The Secretary of the Treasury laid before me a letter from Mr John Armstrong—in which he resigns his late appointmt. of Supervisor of New York—and assigns as a reason therefor, the increased expense of living in the City, which would more than swallow up the Salary & his own income” (JPP description begins “Journal of the Proceedings of the President,” George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 101). Armstrong’s letter to H has not been found. Fish, a prominent New York Federalist, was then appointed to the position.

3Richard Morris had been appointed supervisor of the revenue for New York in March, 1792.

4The two bracketed words in this line are not in H’s handwriting.

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