Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Rufus King, 20 April [1796]

From Rufus King

[Philadelphia] 20. Ap. [1796]

The Petitions of the Merchants and others will be printed today, and it is said they have been signed by almost every Merchant & Trader in the City1—Pettit,2 Barclay,3 & some few others are exceptions. A counter Petition has been very industriously carried through the City and its Suburbs;4 and though very few merchants, Traders, or principal mechanicks have signed it, it will shew a long catalouge of Names. The Persons engaged in this service have been very successful in the northern & southern Liberties, and taking their stands upon the Wharves, they have collected the names of Sailors and others, as well forigners as Citizens. Baltimore has become very zealous, and I fear from their displeasure at the Conduct of Colo. Smith,5 they have hazarded his vote and influence whatever it may [be],6 in the Question of Provision for the Treaty. They have drawn up a Paper, which is signed by almost the whole Body of Merchants in which they request and instruct him to promote by the proper provisions the Executions of the Treaty7—his inclination was in favor of a Provision, but I am apprehensive his Pride will be so wounded by this instruction, that he may vote agt. his Jugement, to prove his independence.8 We shall probably receive from the House today a Bill making an appropriation for defraying the Expences of carrying into Effect the Sp. Treaty.9

We shall amend it by adding a provision for the Br. Treaty. If the House disagree, we shall adhere, and they will lose the Bill by refusing our Amendment. We shall then add to the Algerine Bill10 an amendment providing for the British and Span. Treaties. The House will also decide the Fate of this Bill. We shall then add to the Bill providing for the In. Treaty an amendment providing, for, the British, the Spanh. and the Algerine Treaties. The House will also decide the Fate of this Bill. We shall then Offer them a Bill providing for all the Treaties. This likewise they may reject—but my Belief is that the Opposition will give way before we have gone through this course.

Yrs. &c

Rufus King

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

2Charles Pettit was a Philadelphia merchant.

3John Barclay was a Philadelphia merchant and a former alderman and mayor of that city.

4The petition to which King is referring was adopted on April 16 “at a respectable meeting of citizens” of which Stephen Girard was chairman. The address denounced the Jay Treaty as “unequal in its stipulations, derogatory to our national character, injurious to our general interests, and as offering insult instead of redress” and complimented the treaty’s congressional opponents for “asserting their constitutional prerogatives” and executing their trust, “as the guardians of our dearest rights” ([Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser, April 20, 1796).

6In MS, “me.”

7The instructions which his Baltimore constituents sent to Smith are described in the following letters, which were printed in the [Philadelphia] Gazette of the United States on April 22, 1796: “Extract of a letter from a gentleman in Baltimore to his friend in this city, dated 19th April.

“‘… We have, in some measure, anticipated your proceedings, by instructions to our delegate Gen. Smith, pointedly calling upon him to vote for the appropriations, and carrying into effect the treaty; considering an opposite conduct as a breach of the national faith, and pregnant with the most fatal consequences. The instructions to Gen. Smith … will have an influence; indeed it is my opinion, from what has fallen from him, that it was and has been his intention so to do.’

“Extract of a letter from Baltimore, dated April 18, to a House in this city.

“‘… an address, or rather instructions have been given by a large majority of the mercantile characters of our town to Gen. Smith to vote for the appropriations.… We have about 600 signers, and might have obtained as many more.…’”

8King need not have worried, for Smith voted for the implementation of the Jay Treaty. See King to H, April 17–18, 1796, note 6.

9See H to King, April 15, 1796, note 10. On April 20, 1796, the House passed and sent to the Senate “… bills for making appropriations for defraying the expenses which may arise in carrying into effect the Treaties lately concluded between the United States and the King of Spain, and with certain Indian tribes Northwest of the river Ohio …” (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 , V, 1094–95). The Indian treaty had been concluded on August 7, 1795, at Greenville in the Northwest Territory.

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