Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Timothy Pickering, 24 September 1796

From Timothy Pickering

Department of State Sept 24. 1796.

Dr Sir,

I have just received your letter of the 21st relative to Mr. Pitcairn. As soon as the President had determined to change our Minister at Paris, I considered it not less necessary to make a change in the Consulate; and Mr Pinckney1 will go thither with the requisite powers on this subject. I have mentioned to him Mr Pitcairn as the gentleman whom he may safely and advantageously employ in the preliminary investigations of Mr. Skipwith’s proceedings with respect to the immense property of American citizens which has been committed to his management.2 This investigation, and measures, for securing the property, I thought should precede any change in the Consulate. The mode suggested will naturally introduce Mr Pitcairn to his proper place, with this view I had some days since made particular enquiry about his character, and received such information as enabled me to recommend him to the confidence of Gen’l Pinckney in the proposed investigation, and with an assurance, that his agency would be acceptable to our mercantile citizens.3 I am glad to receive your additional testimony in his favor, which I shall give to Gen’l Pinckney.

With great respect & esteem, I am, &c

Timothy Pickering

P.S. I shall be obliged, by your communicating this to Mr McCormick, to whom I am indebted for an answer to his letter concerning Mr Pitcairn4 but which this may now supercede. But as it respects Mr Skipwith I think nothing should be made public.

Copy, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston; LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 9, October 12, 1795–February 28, 1797, National Archives.

1Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.

2Fulwar Skipwith had been appointed consul general of the United States in France in 1795. On June 25, 1795, George Washington, in a letter nominating Skipwith for this position, wrote to the Senate: “It has been represented by our Minister Plenipotentiary, near the French Republic, that such of our commercial relations with France as may require the support of the United States, in detail, cannot be well executed without a Consul General. Of this I am satisfied, when I consider the extent of the mercantile claims now depending before the French government; the neecssity of bringing into the hands of one agent the various applications to the several Committees of Administration, residing at Paris; the attention which must be paid to the conduct of Consuls and Vice-Consuls; and the nature of the services which are the peculiar objects of a Minister’s care, and leave no leisure for his intervention in business to which consular functions are competent. I therefore nominate Fulwar Skipwith, to be Consul General of the United States, in France” (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 189).

3Daniel McCormick.

4On September 24, 1796, Pickering wrote to Pinckney: “You will find by the papers now delivered to you, that Mr. Joseph Pitcairn of New York was about two years ago appointed vice Consul of the united States, to reside at Paris, and you will also at the same time see by what means he has been excluded from the office. I have on this occasion made particular inquiries of his character, and am satisfactorily assured that it is unblemished. In addition to the testimony before received, I am happy to give you that of Colo. Hamilton in his letter of the 21st. instant …” (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 9, October 12, 1795–February 28, 1797, National Archives).

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