George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Hamilton, 4 November 1790

From Alexander Hamilton

Treasury Department [Philadelphia]
November 4th 1790.


I have the honor to inform you, that a letter, of which a copy is enclosed,1 has come to my hands from the Loan officer of North Carolina, since the date of my last letter.2 On considering minutely the course of the business of the new Loans and the future operations of the Treasury, as they will affect the public stocks, it appeared necessary to the prevention of frauds by Counterfeiters and forgers, that particular caution should be observed at the time of receiving the old Certificates, after which it would be difficult to discover the deceptions, and more so, to remedy the injuries committed on the public. Among other preventatives, I informed the officers, that their residence during the time of subscription, at the place where the checks of the State Debts were deposited, appeared indispensible.3 This was grounded on the great varieties of that kind of paper, and on an expectation arising from several circumstances that forged and counterfeited paper would be frequently presented to them. In most of the States the Officers resided at the seat of the State government, where the checks were deposited, and it was only of two or three therefore, that this apparently necessary requisition was to be made. In regard to the residence of the Officer at the principal seat of commerce in the State, which should form his District, it appeared absolutely necessary to the facility of sale and transfer, and to the important operations of raising and sustaining the value of the Debt. I have thought it necessary, Sir, to trouble you with thus much of my views that you might perfectly understand the ground upon which Mr Skinner resigns the appointment.

I beg leave respectively to observe, that the public service appears to require this vacancy to be filled as early as you can satisfy your judgment, respecting the person to whom you may think proper to commit the office. I have therefore endeavoured to procure such information, to be submitted to you, as together with that drawn from other sources, might afford a number of characters for your consideration and selection. I have not been able however to obtain any new name whom I would venture to place before you; but on reconsideration of the names that were presented to you on the former occasion, I beg leave to call your recollection to Colo. Thomas, in whom the State have confided, and as a gentleman who was supported by the good opinions of such of the North Carolina representatives as I conversed with.4 Should no objection against him be known to you, and should no more suitable person be presented for your choice, I am humbly of opinion, that the duties of the office may be safely committed to him.

The account of a declaration of war between Great Britain & Spain having been received in a port adjacent to your present place of residence, I did not think it of importance to transmit information of it from hence. It remains however unconfirmed and uncontradicted. I have the honor to be with the highest respect Sir Your most Obedient & most humble Servant

Alexander Hamilton


1The enclosure was a copy of William Skinner’s 5 Oct. 1790 letter to Hamilton from Edenton, N.C., in which he acknowledged receipt of his commission as North Carolina loans commissioner on 23 Sept. 1790 but conditionally declined it, stating: “if the temporary residence of the Loan officer is to be at, or contiguous to where the Treasury office of this State is, and at the end of one year subject to a removal, and perhaps to a place remote from me it will be attended with so many disadvantages that I must decline accepting the appointment; although I have sent the names of my sureties, yet I have received no answer whether they are approved or not, nor have I had an opportunity of qualifying agreeable to the Act of Congress, so that you will please to consider this as a resignation of the appointment” (DLC:GW).

Hamilton wrote to GW on 6 Nov., enclosing a copy of a second letter from Skinner, from which it appeared “he is disposed to make an experiment of the office, which, I beg leave to observe, is a pleasing circumstance, both as it insures the immediate accommodation of the public creditors in that quarter, and because the gentleman’s experience and past conduct promise an intelligent & faithful execution of the new duty which you have been pleased to commit to him” (DLC:GW). Skinner noted what changed his mind: “Being just favoured with a line of approbation from the attorney of the Federal Court respecting my securities, and although there may appear some inconsistency in my conduct, as by my last I rather seemed inclined not to accept the appointment incumbered as it then appeared to be; but as my securities are approved of, and I am importuned by many respectable characters not to decline, I shall therefore execute my bond & send on by post” (Skinner to Hamilton, 19 Oct. 1790, DLC:GW).

GW replied to Hamilton from Mount Vernon on 11 Nov. 1790: “Since writing to you yesterday I have received your letter of the 6th inst: enclosing the copy of one from Mr Skinner to you, wherein he expresses his intention to continue in office, which in conformity to your opinion, I am willing he should do—You will therefore destroy the letter, which I enclosed to you in my last, for Colo. Thomas.

“The person recommended by Capt. Taylor to be his first mate is represented to me as a deserving man, and qualified for that station” (LB, DLC:GW).

2Hamilton last wrote to GW on 1 Nov. 1790.

3For Hamilton’s instructions to state loans commissioners Nathaniel Appleton, Nathaniel Gilman, Thomas Smith, and probably James Tilton, see Treasury Department Circular to the Commissioners of Loans, 31 Aug. 1790 and note 2, in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 6:588–89.

4For Abishai Thomas’s application and recommendation, see Thomas to GW, 2 Aug. 1790, and Timothy Bloodworth to GW, 7 Aug. 1790.

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