Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Timothy Pickering, [10 February 1797]

To Timothy Pickering

[New York, February 10, 1797]

Dr Sir

If I recollect right, Chancellor Livingston while Secy for foreign Affairs reported a censure upon Our Commissioners who made the peace with G Britain for not obeying their instructions with regard to France.1 Will you favour me in confidence with the real state of this business? I was at the time a member of Congress. It was immediately on the arrival of the provisional articles.2

I trust my Dear Sir effectual measures are taking to bring us to some issue with France to ascertain whether her present plan is to be persisted in or abandonned. For surely our Commerce ought not to be thus an undefended prey.

Yrs truly


T Pickering Esq

ALS, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.

1Robert R. Livingtson, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at the time of the conclusion of a peace treaty between the United States and Great Britain in 1783, had raised the question of whether the American commissioners had violated their instructions by negotiating a peace treaty without the knowledge and concurrence of France. See “Continental Congress. Remarks on the Provisional Peace Treaty,” March 19, 1783, note 1. Livingston’s opinion on the treaty is discussed at length in Pickering to H, April 5, 1797.

2The provisional peace treaty between the United States and Great Britain, signed on November 30, 1782, reached Congress on March 12, 1783. See, for example, James Madison to Edmund Randolph, March 12, 1783 (Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of the Continental Congress [Washington, D.C., 1921–1938], VII, 75–76).

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