Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Théophile Cazenove, 14 October 1797

To Théophile Cazenove1

New York, October 14, 1797. States: “The question of interest on the contract with Mr Morris of the 24th of December 17922 is not free from difficulty and doubt. I however think it the better opinion that interest is payable until the 24th of December 1795 and no longer.” Gives reasons for this opinion.3

ALS, Gemeentearchief Amsterdam, Holland Land Company. These documents were transferred in 1964 from the Nederlandsch Economisch-Historisch Archief, Amsterdam.

1H wrote this letter in his capacity as an attorney for the Holland Land Company. For the full text of this letter and other relevant documents, see Goebel, Law Practice description begins Julius Goebel, Jr., ed., The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton: Documents and Commentary (New York and London, 1964– ). description ends , forthcoming volumes.

2On December 24, 1792, Robert Morris deeded to Herman LeRoy and John Lincklaen as trustees of the Holland Land Company two tracts of land in the Genesee country totaling one and one-half million acres. The Dutch bankers paid £75,000 for the western tract of one million acres, but the agreement stipulated that within three years they could declare the sum to be a loan to Morris secured upon the land. It was also agreed that the eastern tract of five hundred thousand acres could also be mortgaged or purchased for £37,000 and that the Holland Land Company would pay Morris after he had secured titles for the tracts from the Indians and had made the requisite surveys. See Orsamus Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham’s Purchase, and Morris’s Reserve … (Rochester, 1870), 646. The Dutch bankers decided to purchase the land.

Morris described this contract as follows: “1,000,000 } Acres were sold to

Mr. Cazenove and conveyed to Herman Le Roy and John Lincklaen. This sale was made conditional by certain articles of agreement, and held at the option of the purchasers to make it a sale or a mortgage at a time fixed, and at that time they elected to make it a purchase, whereby it was supposed the deeds of conveyance became absolute; and this was my opinion, as I always after that election did consider the sale as absolute; but after the Indian Right was purchased, Mr. Cazenove thought proper to get deeds of confirmation drawn, which he presented and left for my examination, and to be executed. Instead of examining and comparing them myself, I put them under the inspection of two Gentlemen bred to the Law, who very soon informed me that from the nature of the writings and circumstances of relating to this 1,500,000 Acres, I had an equal Right with the purchasers to elect that it should be a sale absolute or a Mortgage; in the latter case to be redeemed by re-payment of the consideration money, (£112,500 sterling,) and interest agreeably to the articles of agreement. And it was urged, that as my affairs were then so deranged, that I was obliged to keep close house; it became my duty to reserve this Right to my Creditors, and not to sign the deeds of confirmation. To this reasoning, I submitted reluctantly, because I thought the sale a fair one, intended at the time by me to be positive; and which, if my affairs had been in such a situation as that no creditors could have been affected, I certainly would have signed the new deeds without hesitation; that I did not do it, was to me a matter of regret, under which I have never felt perfectly satisfied” (In the Account of Property, 5–6).

For the purchase of the Indian right, see H to Herman LeRoy, William Bayard, and James McEvers, December 16, 1796; March 4–July 19, 1797.

For additional information on Morris’s sale to the Holland Land Company, see Paul Demund Evans, The Holland Land Company (Buffalo, 1924), 25–36, 177–78.

3On October 13, 1797, H made the following entry in his Cash Book, 1795–1804: “Le Roy & Bayard Dr … opinion concerning interest on the 37.500 £ Sterling payable to R Morris if retained 15” (AD, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress).

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