From William Henderson1
New york Jany. 15th. 1802
The Committee which has been appointed here, to act on behalf of the Sufferrers by French Captures,2 have requested me to write to you, for the draft of such a memorial as you think would be proper to present to Congress on the subject of their claims. it is probable that similar applications for relief, will be made from all the trading Towns in the Union; & perhaps from an united effort some good may be obtained. it has been suggested, that as this is a business of great consequence and of National concern, whether it would not be right to request in the Memorial, that Congress would allow the Memorialists to be hear’d by Council in support of their claims. you can best judge how far such a request would be proper. it is desireable that no time should be lost in making the application; and it will be considered as a particular favor, if you will forward me the draft of the memorial, as soon as the business you are engaged in will permit.
I am with the utmost esteem your very Hume. st.
ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
1. Henderson was a New York City businessman and insurance broker who owned large tracts of land in northern New York. He became a director of the Society for the Establishment of Useful Manufactures in October, 1794. Between 1799 and 1802, Henderson held minor offices in New York City, including assessor and election inspector.
2. When France and the United States signed the Convention of 1800 (Treaty of Môrtefontaine) on September 30, 1800, they were unable to agree upon the amount of indemnifications to award one another for spoliations which had occurred during the undeclared war. The final convention, ratified by both governments in 1801, contained no provision for indemnifications (see Article II of the Convention of 1800, which is printed in Harrison Gray Otis to H, December 17, 1800, note 3).
On January 13, 1802, a group of New York merchants met at the Tontine Coffee House and appointed a seven-member committee, which included Henderson, to “adopt such measures as may be deemed expedient for redress” (New-York Evening Post, January 14, 1802). On February 1, the committee presented a memorial to another meeting at the Tontine Coffee House, which was approved and signed (New-York Evening Post, February 2, 1802). New York businessmen did not act alone, for merchants and underwriters from other port cities also sent petitions and memorials concerning indemnification to Congress (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and all the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , XI, 481, 483, 509, 721, 950, 991, 1057, 1093).
On February 24, the New York merchants’ memorial was presented to the House of Representatives and was referred to a committee which had been appointed on February 5 to consider similar petitions. The committee made a report on April 22 in which it referred the question of compensation to the entire House (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and all the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , XI, 481, 721, 1216; ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, II, 459–61). Congress did not take further action concerning indemnifications until France and the United States had signed the Convention for the Payment of Sums Due by France to the Citizens of the United States at Paris on April 30, 1803 (Miller, Treaties, II description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (Washington, 1931), II. description ends , 516–23). On November 10, 1803, Congress passed an act which appropriated $3,750,000 to pay United States citizens for damages or losses suffered during the undeclared war with France (“An Act making provision for the payment of claims of citizens of the United States on the government of France, the payment of which has been assumed by the United States, by virtue of the convention of the thirtieth of April, one thousand eight hundred and three, between the United States and the French Republic” [2 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, II (Boston, 1850). description ends 247–48]).