From Walter Livingston1
New York, January 29, 1795. “… I was informed, that it is your intention to return to this place and resume the practice of the Law. On this supposition permit me to request you, to become my Council in several suits already commenced. Viz one against Alexr. Macomb,2 another against Nathl: Prime,3 a third against Jno R. Livingston4 a fourth against Ben. Seixes5 and generally against any dispute which may arise between Mr. Duer6 & myself in Closing our accounts, and also against every other person or persons….”7
LC, New-York Historical Society, New York City.
1. Walter Livingston, the son of Robert Livingston, Jr., the third lord of Livingston Manor, was a New York City lawyer and a former member of the Board of Treasury. He had been involved in various stock speculations with William Duer and Alexander Macomb. See Philip Schuyler to H, March 25, 1792.
2. Alexander Macomb, a former fur trader and a supplier of troops during the American Revolution, was a land and securities speculator who had also served as a director of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures. In December, 1791, he formed a secret partnership with Duer for speculation in public securities. As a result of these speculations and Duer’s failure in March, 1792, Macomb went into bankruptcy on April 12, 1792. See Duer to H, March 12, 1792; Schuyler to H, March 25, 1792; William Seton to H, April 9, 11, 1792; H to Seton, April 12, 1792; Nicholas Low to H, April 10, 1792; H to Nehemiah Hubbard, May 3, 1792.
Livingston and Macomb were involved in a suit over the protested bills of John Dewhurst amounting to £9550. For a description of this suit, see Livingston to Harrison, Anslay, and Company, February 15, 1794 (LC, NewYork Historical Society, New York City). Dewhurst was a New York City businessman who had been a director of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures and a close associate of Duer and Macomb. Dewhurst also went bankrupt in April, 1792. See Nicholas Low to H, April 10, 1792; Benjamin Walker to H, July 12, 1792.
3. Prime was a New York City merchant and land speculator. Duer endorsed to Livingston a note of Edward Parker and Company, a New York City mercantile firm, for $30,000 deferred debt. Livingston commenced an action against Prime as endorser of that note. See Livingston to Aaron Burr, February 15, April 4, 1794 (LC, New-York Historical Society, New York City); Livingston to Brockholst Livingston, his attorney, June 27, 1795 (LC, New-York Historical Society, New York City); Brockholst Livingston to Walter Livingston, June 18, 1795 (ALS, New-York Historical Society, New York City).
4. John R. Livingston, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston’s brother and the second cousin of Walter Livingston, was a New York City merchant. During the American Revolution he and Walter Livingston had been business associates of John B. Church, Elizabeth Hamilton’s brother-in-law.
Walter Livingston’s suit with John R. Livingston concerned one-half of the ship Somerset and her cargo. For H’s role in this suit after the death of Walter Livingston in 1797, see H’s Law Register, 1795–1804 (D, partially in H’s handwriting, New York Law Institute, New York City; also in Goebel, Law Practice description begins Julius Goebel, Jr., ed., The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton: Documents and Commentary (New York and London, 1964– ) description ends , forthcoming volumes).
5. Benjamin Seixas was a New York City broker and merchant. Livingston’s suit against Seixas concerned a note which Seixas had drawn in favor of Peter Colt for $10,977 deferred debt.
6. Duer, a prominent New York City businessman and speculator, had served as Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury from September, 1789, to late March or early April, 1790. He was a director of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures from its inception in 1791 until the collapse of his financial affairs in 1792. On March 23, 1792, Duer was imprisoned for debt, and except for a brief period in 1797 when he was released at H’s intercession, he remained in prison until his death on May 7, 1799. See Duer to H, March 12, 1792; H to Duer, March 14, 23, April 22, 1792; Robert Troup to H, March 19, 1792; H to Philip Livingston, April 2, 1792. After Duer’s imprisonment, Walter Livingston published a letter, dated March 24, 1792, in which he explained his relations with Duer: “Nearly allied to Mr. Duer, and persuaded that he had been successful in business, the subscriber was induced to endorse his notes to a very considerable amount. At the moment when confidence in money negotiations is shaken, these notes are becoming due, and it is evident that the performance of the subscriber’s engagements on account of Mr. Duer, cannot take place with that rapid punctuality which has hitherto been the case. It is true that Mr. Duer, in consequence of an agreement previous to his stoppage, has deposited with him securities in land, stocks, and notes of individuals towards his indemnification, on the competency of which he insists: but whatever may be their intrinsic value, securities of this nature, at such a juncture, cannot be convened into money to answer demands so prompt, extensive and unexpected” (The Federal Gazette and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, March 27, 1792). Livingston published a second letter, dated April 17, 1792, in The Federal Gazette and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, April 19, 1792.
For a discussion of Duer’s activities and the effects of his failure on Walter Livingston, Macomb, Dewhurst, Seixas, and John R. Livingston, see Davis, Essays description begins Joseph Stancliffe Davis, Essays in the Earlier History of American Corporations (“Harvard Economic Studies,” XVI [Cambridge, 1917]). description ends , I, 278–338.
7. H made the following entry in his Cash Book, 1795–1804, under the date of June 1, 1795: “Walter Livingston Dr For Retainers in four suits with M Macombe Nathaniel Prime John R Livingston & Benj: Seixas at each” (AD, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; also in Goebel, Law Practice description begins Julius Goebel, Jr., ed., The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton: Documents and Commentary (New York and London, 1964– ) description ends , forthcoming volumes). On September 9, 1795, H made the following entry in his Cash Book, 1795–1804: “Cash Dr. to Account of Costs & fees. For this sum received as retainer by B Livingston on behalf of W. Livingston 100” (AD, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; also in forthcoming Goebel, Law Practice description begins Julius Goebel, Jr., ed., The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton: Documents and Commentary (New York and London, 1964– ) description ends , III). Brockholst Livingston served as Walter Livingston’s attorney in his cases against Macomb and Prime.