To Oliver Wolcott, Junior
New York June 9. 1796
I called at your house the morning of my departure1 but you was not then up. While I was in the City we had a little conversation concerning an affair of an arrangement with Swan for effecting a remittance to Holland.2 I intended to have resumed it for two reasons, one because it has been represented to the disadvantage of the Conduct of the Treasury, another because Swan who lodged at the same house with me begged me to converse with you on the subject and give my opinion both to you & him of what I thought of the matter. The latter I should of course have managed with due regard to all prudential considerations.
But I wished chiefly to apprise you that it is industriously circulated that Monroe3 & Skipwith,4 as Agents for the Treasury received Swan’s money at Paris to remit to Holland, that they mismanaged the fund, produced besides delay, loss—and that the Treasury now endeavours to turn the loss on Swan.5 If you have not been apprized of this it is requisite you should be.
ALS, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.
4. Fulwar Skipwith, United States consul general in France.
5. On December 14, 1795, in an attempt to pay off the current interest owing on the Dutch debt, Monroe applied to the French Minister of Finance, Guillaume Charles Faipoult de Maisoncelle, for permission to export one hundred and twenty thousand dollars in specie to Holland. A week later Faipoult refused Monroe’s request (Faipoult to Monroe, December 21, 1795 [ALS, MS Division, New York Public Library]). Monroe then tried to find some other way to send the money. In a letter to Monroe, dated December 24, 1795, the Dutch bankers Willink, Van Staphorst, and Hubbard rejected a proposal by Monroe that the firm should draw on him for the equivalent of the amount owed, “no persons having at present to remit monies to France, at least for any sums of consequence.…” They then suggested that Monroe deposit Swan’s money with the French treasury in exchange for bills on the government of the Netherlands (LS, MS Division, New York Public Library). Monroe rejected this proposal and instead approached French bankers. One of them, Jean Frédéric Perregaux, refused to co-operate (Perregaux to Monroe, February 7, 1796 [ALS, MS Division, New York Public Library]), but three days later a letter from Jacob Van Staphorst approved “the proposal of Mess. Corsange and Co…, provided the Bills are not upon too long terms, which would occasion so much longer advances from the Bankers in Amsterdam and of consequence a loss of Interest for the United States” (ALS, MS Division, New York Public Library). It is not clear whether Monroe eventually transferred the money to Holland by means of Corsange, but he did complete the transaction before he received his letter of recall in November (Monroe to James Madison, January 8, 1797 [Hamilton, James Monroe description begins Stanislaus Murray Hamilton, ed., The Writings of James Monroe Including a Collection of His Public and Private Papers and Correspondence Now for the First Time Printed (New York, 1898–1903). description ends , III, 63]), for Swan presented his account at the Treasury in January, 1797. See Wolcott to H, June 18, 1795, note 7.
Monroe tried to dispel the rumors mentioned in the letter printed above in the following letter to George Clinton, dated July 25, 1796: “I have just heard that some benevolent minded people in Philadelphia have circulated a report that I am engaged in speculations in this country in land &c. with Mr. Skipwith: and that I omitted to forward or neglected the remittance hence of a sum of money committed to me by draft of Swan upon the H. of Dallardt & Swan here to be remitted to Holland to our bankers. I enclose you the affadavit of Mr. Skipwith to disprove the first calumny, & the correspondence with this govt, our bankers in Holland &c to disprove the 2d” (Hamilton, James Monroe description begins Stanislaus Murray Hamilton, ed., The Writings of James Monroe Including a Collection of His Public and Private Papers and Correspondence Now for the First Time Printed (New York, 1898–1903). description ends , III, 36). On December 25, 1797, Monroe wrote to Thomas Jefferson: “I had no other money entrusted to me for foreign officers: nor for any other purpose except a remittance of 120.000 dollars by a draft of Swan upon his house in favor of the Secretary of the Treasury to be remitted to our bankers in Holland. Upon this latter point an attempt was made to injure me in my absence, but abandoned when it was found that I could not be assailed. Still some injury was perhaps done me in the beginning in whispers. It therefore merits attention whether I ought not to take the subject up openly & pursue Mr. Wolcott, either to an explicit disavowal of calumnies, or to a conviction of being guilty of them, as I have the most ample proof of the rectitude & propriety of my own conduct in that respect. This is for your opinion” (Hamilton, James Monroe description begins Stanislaus Murray Hamilton, ed., The Writings of James Monroe Including a Collection of His Public and Private Papers and Correspondence Now for the First Time Printed (New York, 1898–1903). description ends , III, 89).