George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Hamilton, 8 July 1791

From Alexander Hamilton

Philadelphia, 8 July 1791. Respectfully submits a contract between the superintendent of the establishments on the Delaware River and John Wilson for building a beacon boat for its shoals1 and humbly gives his opinion, after comparing Wilson’s contract with that of Warwick Hale, enclosed,2 and after inquiring into the proportional value of a similar boat already built and into the present rates of constructing vessels in Philadelphia, “that a contract, more beneficial to the United States with a workman of competent ability would be difficult to effect.”3


1Superintendent William Allibone, the master warden of the port of Philadelphia, had forwarded to Alexander Hamilton on 22 April Philadelphia boatbuilder John Wilson’s contract of 19 April for building a replacement beacon boat at Brown Shoal for £78.2.6 (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 8:304). GW approved the contract on 9 July and approved a similar contract with Wilson in March 1793 (DNA: RG 26, Lighthouse Deeds and Contracts, Vol. A, 5, 29).

2The enclosure has not been found.

3No reply has been found. Hamilton wrote a second letter to GW this day concerning federal coastal establishments in Pennsylvania, submitting a contract of 20 April made between Allibone and Joseph Anthony & Son of Philadelphia for a year’s supply of “Winter pressed or strained Spermaceti Oil” at 3s. 7d. Pennsylvania currency a gallon for the Cape Henlopen lighthouse. On 22 April Allibone forwarded that contract to Hamilton, who favored its terms, and GW approved it on 9 July. The firm continued to supply the lighthouse with fuel through 1797 at least (see Hamilton to GW, 8 July, DLC:GW, and DNA: RG 26, Lighthouse Deeds and Contracts, vol. A, 7–8, 17, 61).

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