Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to John Jay, 4 June 1794

To John Jay1

Philadelphia June 4th

My Dear Sir

The session of Congress is about to close2 much better than I expected. All mischievous measures have been prevented and several good ones have been established. Among these additional provisions of revenue & some of force are not the least important.3

But as more immediately connected with the objects of your mission you will learn with satisfaction that the bill which had passed the senate before you left this for punishing and preventing practices contrary to neutrality has become a law, with only one material alteration, the rejection of the clause which forbade the selling of prizes.4 I now consider the Executive and the Judiciary as armed with adequate means of repressing the fitting out of Privateers, the taking commissions, or inlisting in foreign service, the unauthorised undertaking of military expeditions &c.

At Charlestown some considerable irregularities have lately happened.5 But means have been taken and are in train which will no doubt arrest their progress & correct the evil.

I believe it would be useful for you to collect and communicate exact information with regard to the usage of Europe as to permitting the sale of prizes in neutral countries. If this should be clearly against the toleration of the practice, the Executive might still perhaps disembarrass itself.

Men’s minds have gotten over the irritation by which they were some time since possessed, and if G Britain is disposed to justice peace and conciliation the two countries may still arrive at a better understanding than has for some time subsisted between them. Is there not a crisis which she ought not to suffer to pass without laying a solid foundation for future harmony? I think there is. Adieu My Dear Sir. Not knowing how far any press of business on the Department of State might delay its communicating I thought a few hasty lines would not be unacceptable.

Yrs truly

A Hamilton

John Jay Esqr. Chief Justice

ALS, Columbia University Libraries; copy, in the handwriting of John Jay, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1The copy was enclosed in a letter from Jay to H, August 27, 1800.

2Congress adjourned on June 9, 1794.

4“An Act in addition to the act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 381–84 [June 5, 1794]). On June 2, 1794, the House had struck out the following clause in this act: “And be it further enacted, That it shall not be lawful to sell, within the United States, any vessel or goods captured from a Prince or State, or from the subjects or citizens of a Prince or State with which the United States are at peace, which vessel or goods shall have been captured by any other foreign Prince or State, or by the subjects or citizens of such Prince or State, unless such vessel and goods shall have been first carried into a port or place within the territory of the Prince or State to which the captors belong; but such vessel and goods shall be carried out of the United States by those who shall have brought them in. And the sale of any vessel or goods, prohibited as aforesaid, shall be utterly void” (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , IV, 757).

Index Entries