Notes on the Sinking Fund and the Proclamation of Neutrality
May 7. We met as trustees of the sinking fund. For the opinion I delivered see my note of May 8. to E. R.1 and for his see his answer of May 9.—On the business of the sinking fund, we had meant to have come to a resolution to ask of the Pres. if there was any money under the loans at our disposal, the occasion of laying it out being favorable. But H. produced a letter just received from our bankers informing him of the impossibility2 of3 effecting the new loan which had been ordered (and of which I had not heard before). On this I declared it as my opinion that if the money on hand was not sufficient to pay our next installment to France and also to purchase public debt, (of which I could not be a judge, only knowing that our next installment would be of between 6. and 700,000 D. and was approaching) I should be against failing in the payment which was a positive engagement whereas the purchase of public debt was voluntary. So nothing was done.
When the question was whether the proclamation of Apr.4 22 should be issued, E. R. observed that there should be a letter written by me to the ministers of the belligerent powers to declare that it should not be taken as conclusive evidence against our citizens in foreign courts of Admiralty for contraband goods.—Knox suddenly adopted the opinion before Hamilton delivered his. Hamilton opposed it pretty strongly. I thought it an indifferent thing but rather5 approved E.R.’s opinion. The President was against it: but observed that as were three for it,6 it should go. This was the first instance I had seen of an opportunity to decide by a mere majority including his own vote.
MS (DLC); entirely in TJ’s hand; partially dated, but first paragraph obviously set down no earlier than 8 or 9 May 1793 and second paragraph, in a different shade of ink, probably on 12 May 1793 with “Anas” entry of that date; written on same sheet as “Anas” entries for 6 and 12 May 1793. Entry in SJPL: “[Notes] on proceedings on sinking fund. [Notes] on proclamn—decision by majority.” Included in the “Anas.”
For the background to this meeting of the trustees of the sinking fund, see note to Alexander Hamilton to TJ, 24 Mch. 1793. TJ’s opinion related not to sinking fund business but to the propriety of ordering federal customs collectors to report violations of American neutrality directly to the Secretary of the Treasury (TJ to Edmund Randolph, 8 May 1793; see also Notes on Alexander Hamilton and the Enforcement of Neutrality, 6 May 1793). The letter just received was Willink, Van Staphorst & Hubbard to Alexander Hamilton, 26 Feb. 1793, which reported the impossibility of effecting the new loan of two million florins for the payment of the foreign debt which Hamilton had authorized in letters of 5 Nov. 1792 to them and to William Short (Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , xiii, 19–23, xiv, 166–7). TJ’s letter to the ministers of the belligerent powers was dated 23 Apr. 1793.
1. Remainder of sentence interlined.
2. First syllable interlined.
3. TJ here canceled “borrowing.”
4. Reworked from “Mar.”
5. TJ here canceled “joined E.”
6. TJ here canceled “he should.”