Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Samuel Smith, 16 June 1793

From Samuel Smith1

Balte 16. June 1793

Dr Sir

Before I receivd your Letter of the 8 Inst.2 I had Convers’d with Mr. Randolph who had nearly Satisfied my Mind.3 I had his permission to mention Such points of our Conversation as tended to Allay the fears of the people relative to a War & I have taken the Liberty to use some parts of your Letter to serve the same desireable purpose. These are those parts that prove the Imprudence of a restitution of the prizes & the Opinion that the Law of Nations is supposed to Justify the Admission of the prizes to Sale. I Cannot reconcile the Justice of Neutral powers permitting Such Sales. It Certainly will always tend to Involve the Neutral Nation in the War & I sincerely wish the refusal Could be Justified by the Law of Nations. It Cannot give much hope that the firmness & the determination of the Executive to Act upon principles that Can be Supported will Avert a War which all true friends to this Country must wish to Avoid.

I shall be extremely surpriz’d if your Ideas should be realiz’d for there be People in America who would be dispos’d to throw open the Government of America again. I Can Scarce think it possible—but if there should, I will trust in the good & to their Strength being greatly Superior to any Attempt of that Kind. In this State the more I inquire the more I am persuaded that they will Ardently Support the Government & that with One Voice they approve the Presidents Proclamation. Veritas4 is reprobated in every Circle. I am Dr. sir

with great regard   your friend & serv.

S. Smith

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Smith, a Baltimore merchant, had been an officer in the American Revolution and a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1790 to 1792. In March, 1793, he was elected to Congress.

For background to this letter, see Otho H. Williams to H, May 28, 1793, note 2; “Treasury Department Circular to the Collectors of the Customs,” May 30, 1793.

2Letter not found.

3See Williams to H, May 28, 1793, note 2. Edmund Randolph described his conversation with Smith as follows: “On my arrival at Baltimore, Colo. S. Smith gave me a very early and easy opportunity of conversing with him on the subject of his letter to Colo. Hamilton. He repeated the same alarm, as still existing in the breasts of the merchants; adding, however, a confidence in the executive, as being better qualified to judge, from a comprehensive view of our situation. My explanations were apparently satisfactory. Indeed I heard him mention them to several leading men in that town, and they seemed to be, and expressed themselves to be, persuaded, that the measures of government were impartial, and not liable to just complaint even from the British themselves. I found, that the style, in which a letter written by the secretary of the treasury to the different naval officers, had first created the apprehensions, which had seized them; and I endeavoured to procure a right of it without success. Perhaps, sir, if any inaccuracy in the manner or expressions should be discovered, on a revision of it, it would be advantageous to correct it. I am sure, that the matter of it, as represented to me, is conformable to your sense of the business. I am more particularly induced to suggest a revision of that letter, as I perceive, that the same impression has been made here from the same cause …” (Randolph to Washington, June 11, 1793 [ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress]).

The statements made by H to which the Baltimore merchants took exception may have been those in the last section of his “Treasury Department Circular to the Collectors of the Customs,” May 13–14, 1793. Complaints were also made in the South concerning the “Treasury Department Circular to the Collectors of the Customs,” May 30, 1793.

4From June 1 to June 12, 1793, a series of four open letters addressed “To the President of the United States” and signed “Veritas” were printed in the [Philadelphia] National Gazette. These articles were highly critical of the Washington Administration’s foreign policy.

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