Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Jonathan Williams, 8 June 1796

From Jonathan Williams1

Philadelphia, June 8, 1796. “I thank you for your friendly offer2 and, in conformity, request you to let me know what proposals Mr Macomb3 is willing to make. My Demand is $17530 Dollars, being the difference arising on the unperformed Contract made with me by Mr. Duer on the Companys acct. agreeably to the terms of the partnership. I bought the $50000 six per Cents and paid for them in specie $63250. Dollars. The stock was tendered and the tender duely acknowledged on the Day the Contract became due. At that time the stock would not sell for its nominal amount, so that I am a real sufferer in the sum of $13250.…”4

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Williams, a native of Boston and a great-nephew of Benjamin Franklin, had been prize agent and commercial agent for Congress at Nantes during the American Revolution. After the war he returned to the United States, settled in Philadelphia, and became an investor in various stock and land operations. In 1796 he was appointed associate judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia.

2H had been in Philadelphia from June 2 to June 8, 1796. An entry in his Cash Book, 1795–1804, for June 2, 1796, reads: “… June 9 for my expenses to Philadelphia 34” (AD, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress).

3Alexander Macomb, a native of Ireland, had engaged in trade with the Indians in the American West during the American Revolution and was a partner with his brother William and William Edgar in the Detroit firm of Macomb, Edgar, and Macomb, which supplied the British Indian department. After the Revolution he settled in New York where he became a wealthy businessman and speculator. In December, 1791, he formed a partnership for speculation in public securities with William Duer; both partners went to jail in 1792.

In the April, 1797, term of the United States Circuit Court for the District of New York Williams prosecuted Macomb and Duer. Williams’s declaration stated that on January 16, 1792, he and Duer had signed agreements that Williams would deliver to Duer by April 15, 1792, fifty thousand dollars of United States stock at six percent, in exchange for a cash payment of “twenty seven shillings in the pound” by the same date. Duer and Macomb, however, refused to buy the stock, and Williams claimed damages of twenty thousand dollars (RG 21, Records of the United States Circuit Court for New York, National Archives [filed May 8, 1798]).

For the details of Williams’s stock transactions with Duer and Macomb, see Clement Biddle’s Account Books, 1790–1799, in the Columbia University Libraries.

4An entry in H’s Cash Book, 1795–1804, for February 9, 1797, reads: “Alexander McComb for opinion & retainer in the case of Jo Williams 15” (AD, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress).

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