Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Gouverneur Morris, [25 August 1802]

To Gouverneur Morris1

[Grange, New York, August 25, 1802]

Dear Sir

It was my intention to have come to see you this afternoon, among other things to confer about the affair of the loan.2 But the uncertain state of the weather & some bodily indisposition prevent me.

As to the security for the loan: I hold it to be the better opinion that no foreigner can be in any form a cestuy que trust3 of land—that consequently no conveyance directly for the security of the money lender will be legal. But Mr chaumont is Guarantor & He is a Citizen. A conveyance to countersecure him will be valid, which in the result will protect the money lender. This therefore is the form I propose to give the business.

As to Tillier4 I want your definitive.

Have the Clerk brought down and engage to pay what ballance may be due from the Company5—he shall immediately deliver up the maps & field books & shall deposit with the Master the bill of Exchange & shall give every facility possible on his part to accelerate a final settlement. Surely this is the best course in the view of interest & humanity.

Mr. Church6 requests you to renew the inclosed, & send it to him. If you forward the renewed note by the bearer, I will take it to Town with me in the morning.

Yrs. very truly


G Morris Esq

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Morris was a United States Senator from New York.

2This was a loan of two hundred thousand Swiss livres from Jean Frederick Houst de Grandson, a European banker, to William Constable, a New York City merchant who had been a partner in Alexander Macomb’s purchase of land in northern New York. James Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont was the guarantor of the loan, and H and Morris had agreed to serve as trustees and counter-guarantors. As security for the loan, Constable offered 137,214 ⅔ acres of land in Great Tracts Nos. 1 and 2 of Macomb’s Purchase.

Le Ray de Chaumont was the son of Jacques Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont, a French merchant who had allowed Benjamin Franklin to use his estate at Passy and had advanced money to the colonies during the American Revolution. James Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont came to the United States to press his father’s Revolutionary War claims and became involved in land speculation in northern New York. He was a commissioner of Castorland, a colony for French émigrés established on the Black River on land purchased from Macomb.

3Black defines cestui que trust as “the person who possesses the equitable right to property and receives the rents, issues, and profits thereof, the legal estate of which is vested in a trustee” (Henry Campbell Black, Black’s Law Dictionary: Definitions of the Terms and Phrases of American and English Jurisprudence, Ancient and Modern [St. Paul, Minnesota, 1951], 289).

4Rodolphe Tillier, native of Berne, Switzerland, replaced Simon Déjardines as head of the Castorland colony in May, 1796. On May 1, 1798, the commissaries of La Compagnie de New York, the Paris association that founded the colony, appointed Morris to investigate Tillier’s accounts, and in March, 1800, Morris succeeded Tillier. In 1799 Morris instituted two suits in the names of Le Ray de Chaumont and Pierre Chassanis, the director of the colony, against Tillier in the New York Court of Chancery for mismanagement of the colony during Tillier’s agency. In these suits H was Tillier’s attorney. The suits were heard before the Chancery Court on March 7, May 7, November 7, 1800, March 3, May 11, 1801, May 9, 18, 29, 1802, February 23, 1803, April 8, 10, and May 23, 1805 (MS Minutes of the New York Court of Chancery, 1797–1800, 1801–1805 [Hall of Records, New York City]). For the documents concerning these suits, see Chancery Papers, BM-600-C, BM-710-L, BM-744-L, BM-1679-L, Parchment 248-B-2 (Hall of Records, New York City), and Chancery Decrees Before 1800, C-228 (Historical Documents Collection, on deposit in Queens College, City University of New York). Tillier defended his agency in Mémoire pour Rodolphe Tillier, Commissaire-Gérant de la Campagnie de New York (New York: De l’Imprimerie de J. C. Parisot, 1800). Part of Chassanis’s reply to Tillier’s pamphlet is printed in Franklin B. Hough, A History of Lewis County, in the State of New York, from the Beginning of its Settlement to the Present Time (Albany: Munsell and Rowland, 78 State Street, 1860), 65–67.

On September 7, 1802, Tillier wrote to Morris: “Disposed to every advisable measure by General Hamilton conciliatory, I adress you Honord Sir! with the assurances in my intended Journey to Black river I will obstruct nothing that may be pleasing to your Agency, in returne expecting from your Sub Agent Mr. R. Coxe an analoguos behaviour and Conduct” (ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress). Richard Coxe of New Jersey was Morris’s agent.

An entry in H’s Cash Book, 1795–1804, for May 11, 1803, reads: “Tillier 100” (AD, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress).

5La Compagnie de New York.

6John B. Church was married to Angelica Schuyler, Elizabeth Hamilton’s sister.

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