Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Oliver Wolcott, Junior, 14 August 1802

To Oliver Wolcott, Junior1

Grange [New York] August 14. 1802

My Dear Sir

When you were last in Town I promised to communicate to you the outline of a project by which I think you may enter upon a career of business beneficial to yourself and friends. My almost constant attendance at Court ever since you were here has retarded its communication, which I shall now make.

Let a commercial Capital be formed to consist of 100 000 Dollars divided into shares of 1000 Dollars each.

¹⁄₁₀A subscriber to pay in Cash one tenth of his subscription and for the residue 7 per Centum per annum. It will then be his interest to pay up as soon as he can.

The subscribers to form a Partnership under the firm of Oliver Wolcott & Co., Oliver Wolcott alone to have the signature of the firm and the active management of the affairs of the Company; with an allowance of 1500 Dollars per annum out of the profits for the trouble of management besides his share of profits as a Partner.

Oliver Wolcott and two others of the partners to form a board of Direction, to plan &c.

Clerks and all incidental expences to be paid out of the fund.

The objects of the Company—

1 Agencies for purchase & sales of lands Stock &c.
2 Factorage of Cargoes consigned on commission purchases of goods on Commission &c in brief “the business of a Commission Merchant merely.”
3 Purchases at Auction and sales of the articles purchased.
4 Loans of money on deposit of goods with a right if not redeemed in time to sell on commission—Perhaps

Speculative enterprises in navigation and com⟨merce⟩ to be excluded.

In a company thus formed under your management I should be willing to become a partner for from 5 to 10 000 Ds. and I have no doubt that the Capital will be readily formed of confidential and trust worthy characters who would ensure great credit to the House.

I am also confident that when it should be known in Europe that certain characters were of the Company, it would attract a good portion of profitable employment.

I will enter into no further detail. If the project impresses you favourably, come to New York & we will give it form & finish & prepare for the Execution.2 Do not lightly reject it.

Yrs.   very truly

A Hamilton

Oliver Wolcott Esq

ALS, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.

1Following his resignation as Secretary of the Treasury on December 31, 1801, Wolcott served as a judge for the Second Circuit of the United States from February, 1801, to March, 1802, when the position was abolished by “An Act to repeal certain acts respecting the organization of the Courts of the United States; and for other purposes” (2 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, II (Boston, 1850). description ends 132 [March 8, 1802]).

2On February 3, 1803, Wolcott signed an agreement which was similar to that proposed by H and under which James Watson, Moses Rogers, Archibald Gracie, and William W. Woolsey, all merchants of New York City, were “to form a commercial Partnership, and to transact business in the manner hereafter mentioned, under the style and firm of Oliver Wolcott & Company.” According to the terms of this agreement; each partner contributed fifteen thousand dollars, except Wolcott, whose share “shall be advanced in whole or in part, when it shall suit his convenience.” Wolcott, as the managing partner, received three thousand dollars as salary as well as one-fifth of the annual profits. The business of the firm included: “the execution of all Agencies and Commissions for the purchase or sale of Merchandize, Stock or other property: Purchases and Sales in the market of the United States: Loans of money on deposits of goods for sale: and generally all money negociations for good and lawful considerations: but that no concern in navigation or for the importation or exportation of Goods or Merchandize to or from foreign Countries, is to be undertaken on account of the Company, without the consent of all the Parties” (DS, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford).

On February 7, 1803, Wolcott wrote from his home in Litchfield, Connecticut, to George Cabot: “… I have determined on a removal to New York immediately. My family will remain in the country till next autumn. To this change of situation I am impelled by a kind of necessity. I have been contented here; but my property is not sufficient to employ my time, or to furnish the means of educating and providing for my family as I wish. This State furnishes no employments in which I can engage, except those of a public nature, and with those I have been satiated.

“The terms on which I have concluded to enter upon a new career of active business are beneficial and as safe as possible; and the gentlemen associated with me are all men of ample fortunes and respectability. Where prior engagements and connections do not interfere, I hope to experience the patronage and encouragement of my acquaintance.” (Henry Cabot Lodge, Life and Letters of George Cabot [Boston, 1878; reprinted New York, 1974], 329–30).

Wolcott’s company was not successful, and it was dissolved in 1805 (Wolcott to Sir Francis Baring and Company, August 6, 1805 [LC, in Wolcott’s handwriting, MS Division, New York Public Library]). The account books of the company may be found in the New-York Historical Society, New York City.

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