George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Andrew Hamilton, 4 May 1792

To Andrew Hamilton

Philadelphia May 4th 1792.


I have had the pleasure to receive your polite letter of the 12th of December, together with a copy of “An Enquiry into the Principles of taxation,[”] which accompanied it, & for which I must beg your acceptance of my best thanks.1

The subject of your book is certainly of the first importance to society; and those who undertake works of this nature upon the extensive scale that yours appears to be, are entitled to the thanks of the patriotic of every nation. In this country, where we are commencing a Government upon the experience of ages, it certainly behoves us to search into the “Principles of Taxation” and to avoid as much as possible the errors of other nations on this very important head: We must therefore receive with peculiar satisfaction any lights on the subject.

Your philanthropic wish “to see the world at large encreasing in knowledge, prosperity & happiness,” is no less pleasing to me as a Citizen of the World, than your expressions of personal respect are deserving the acknowledgements of Sir Your Most Obt Servant

Go: Washington

LS, Scottish Record Office; Df, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW. The LS includes Andrew Hamilton’s docket, which reads: “4th May 1792 From George Washington Esqr. on receiving my Book.”

1Andrew Hamilton of Kinghorn, South Fifeshire, on the Firth of Forth, wrote his letter to GW of 12 Dec. 1791 at “Buccleugh place Edinburgh,” Scotland. It reads: “Permit me to request your Acceptance of the Accompanying Copy of ‘An Enquiry into the Principles of Taxation’—A Work, in which I have endeavoured, to exhibit the Practice, Point out the Errors, & gather into Distinct points of View the general Truths, which the Experience of Great Britain has exhibited, during the Course of a full Century in which her Statesmen have been engaged, in extracting a Revenue, from the general wealth of the Inhabitants. This Subject, you will allow, is in itself highly Interresting; but especially to a People, just beginning the Business of Taxation. You will see, that in this Department of Government, great Errors are to be avoided. And you know, much better than I can point out, how necessary, the proper Conduct of the Taxes may prove, to the future prosperity and Grandeur of the Empire over which you have now the Honor to Preside.

“My Local Distance, & the Situation I hold in my own Country, place me beyond the Imputation of any Motive in this address, but Veneration for your Character, & a desire to see, not one Country only; but the World at large, encreasing in Knowledge, Prosperity, & Happiness.... P.S. The Book was Published without my Name untill I should see how it was received by my fellow Citizens, and it is in Consequence of their approbation that I have taken the Liberty to give you this Trouble” (DLC:GW). A copy of Hamilton’s book published in London in 1790 was in GW’s library at the time of his death (Griffin, Boston Athenæum Washington Collection description begins Appleton P.C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends , 519).

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