George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Andrew G. Fraunces, 30 July 1793

From Andrew G. Fraunces

Filbert Street Philadelphia July 30. 1793.


In the course of events it has become necessary, from serious considerations, for me to withdraw you[r] attention for a moment from concerns of Public importance to a matter which is at present of a private nature; and feeling that as a Citizen of the United States I have an equal right with others to request your attention to a case of pointed injustice done by the Officers of the Treasury1 I shall proceed to state some circumstances in which the honor of the United States is immediately concerned—and with this assurance that you are willing to hear and redress any act of injustice done by those in authority under you to any person or persons, more especially to the free subjects of the Country over which you preside.

It is not unknown to you Sir, that the late Commissioners of the Treasury were reduced from the noncompliance of the several States in the Union in paying up their quotas of the Requisitions of the late Congress, to make payments to Individuals who had demands against the United States, in their warrants on the Treasurer, and on the several Receivers of Taxes, by way of Anticipation—leaving it with the parties, holders of those Warrants to wait for payment from the persons on whom they were respectively drawn, or, to raise money on them by disposing of them to persons who had more faith in the United States and who chose to become purchasers—In consequence of this irregular mode of doing business, the latter one of obtaining monies was oftener practiced, than the other, and individuals have sold them from 20 to 25 per Ct discount.2

A few days after the organisation of the Treasury department under the present Government, the Secretary agreeably to an order of Congress of the 17th September 1789, Reported an Estimate of monies necessary to be appropriated, and included in it the sum of 190.000 dollars in order to satisfy outstanding Warrants of the late Board of Treasury. The Secretary had for his authority for including this from A Statement of the Register dated the 11th of the same month, in which he declares that from an accurate investigation of Accounts relative to those Warrants 189.916 dollars & 38/100 were outstanding and remained to be paid on Account of Anticipation of the Board of Treasury. Congress in the same month of September appropriated, agreeably to the Estimate of the Secretary the said sum of 190.000 dollars. Immediately after, the Secretary commenced paying those Warrants and continued so to do until he had disbursed the sum of 157.789 dollars 44/100 leaving a balance yet to be paid of 32.210 dollars & 6/100.3

Of this balance, so outstanding, early in the month of May last I purchased in New York two Warrants amounting to 5500 dollars, and applied to the Secretary for payment but have repeatedly received trifling and unsatisfactory answers. The first Answer was, “recommending the holders to lodge them in the Auditors Office under a late Act granting further time for the receiving of unsettled claims”4—The last in these words—


Treasury Department July 2nd 1793

I received your application of yesterday respecting two Warrants drawn by the late board of Treasury. I do not think it necessary at present to answer the several questions stated in your former letter to which you refer. All I can say on the subject is, that as far as can now be judged, these Warrants will constitute a good demand, in favor of the holders upon the public. But there are some unsettled matters which prevent my giving you now a final opinion on the point. I am Sir Your Obedt Servant

Mr Andw. G. Fraunces.

Alex. Hamilton.”5

With respect to his first answer I consider it as an evasive one and given in that manner for purposes which but a few besides himself are acquainted with and I take it as an act of singular injustice—nearly 158.000 dollars of these Warrants have been allowed & received as a good demand against the United States, finally settled and adjusted—on this idea (which was the true one) he has paid that amount; but the small balance must for the safety and interest of the U. States be adjusted in another way! “Want of sufficient light” says he on the 18. May last “must defer the payment of them.”

With respect to the last answer, I have nearly the same idea of it as I have of the first—I consider it as trifling and equivocal.

I am really sorry if there has been and still exists any sound objections to the payment of those Warrants, that the mist was not at first removed from before the eyes of the Officers of the Treasury. From the inclosed letter, it appears that what they now know has long since been known;6 It leads me to ask them why they did not stop the payment in time, they might have saved for the same trial and adjustment they wish to put the Balance outstanding to, nearly 158.000 dollars; and if in my opinion, these are not found to be a good claim against the U. States, the whole affair will have a curious appearance in the eyes of the Public. From a conversation I had with the principal Clerk of the Auditor I found it was suspected that William Duer the late Secretary to the Board had made too free with this paper which was supposed to have been put in his care by the Commissioners—The suspicion is certainly as cruel as it is unjust—but even admitting this to be the case, it cannot follow that individuals should suffer for the mal conduct of Public Officers—If they were, all public confidence would be at once destroyed.7

I take the liberty of inclosing proved copies of those Warrants I hold8—It has been said by the Secretary at one time—“he doubted whether they were a negociable paper”—how could he doubt after he made the before mentioned payments? At another time he said “he did not know but the public had a claim against them as Mr Royal Flint had promised to pay the balance on his Tobacco Contract in those kind of Warrants, and that these might have been a part of them so promised”—If the Secretary would have received these from Mr Flint in payment of Monies due to the United States, he must have considered them as negociable.9

I have stated these several circumstances to you Sir in order to prove what I at first asserted—that I have been dealt unjustly with by the Officers of the Treasury, from their postponing the settlement of my claim, and from their not declaring the true causes of the delay. I have danced attendance at the Treasury for near two Months—and am now obliged in order to expedite the payment of this claim to trouble you, howev⟨er⟩ I have hopes from a knowlege of your disposition to do justice, that you will take the case under consideration and direct an immediate settlement thereupon.10 I remain in Phila. only for this purpose. I have the honor to be with respect Yr most Obt Hble Servant

Andw. G. Fraunces

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1Earlier this year, Alexander Hamilton had dismissed Fraunces, the son of GW’s household steward Samuel Fraunces, from his position as a clerk in the Treasury Department (Hamilton to GW, 9 Aug. [first letter]). Fraunces then returned to his native New York City to open an office as a notary public (Daily Advertiser [New York], 20 Mar. 1793). On the events surrounding his dismissal and the writing of this letter, see the introductory note for Fraunces to Hamilton, 16 May 1793, Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 14:460–71, and Jefferson’s Notes, 12 June 1793, Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends , 26:267–68.

2On 18 Mar. 1780, the Continental Congress approved legislation that allowed the Board of Treasury to issue warrants as temporary payment for the government’s expenses in prosecuting the Revolutionary War. These warrants could be redeemed, with interest, at a later date (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 16:262–66). For an explanation of the history and management of these warrants, especially as they pertain to Fraunces’s complaint, see comptroller of the treasury Oliver Wolcott, Jr.’s letter to Hamilton of 7 Aug. 1793, Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 15:197–203.

3Under the order approved by the House of Representatives on 17 Sept. 1789, Hamilton was to provide an “estimate of the sums requisite to be appropriated during the present session of Congress towards defraying the expences … for satisfying such warrants as have been drawn by the late board of treasury, and which may not heretofore have been paid” (Journal of the House description begins The Journal of the House of Representatives: George Washington Administration 1789–1797. Edited by Martin P. Claussen. 9 vols. Wilmington, Del., 1977. description ends , 1:142). Hamilton included a statement on these outstanding warrants in his report to the House of 19 Sept. 1789. In the enclosed “Statement of the Anticipation of Monies on the Public Credit, by the late Commissioners of the Board of Treasury, on the 11th of September 1789,” register Joseph Nourse “certifies, that the excess of warrants drawn beyond the said Treasurer’s actual receipts, amounts to the sum of One Hundred Eighty-nine thousand, Nine hundred and six dollars, thirty-four ninetieths” or “Dollars, 189,906. 38/100” (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 5:379–92). For the appropriation of $190,000, see “An Act making Appropriations for the Service of the present year,” 29 Sept. 1789 (1 Stat description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends ., 95). For a list of the warrants redeemed by the end of July 1791, see the statement “FOR DISCHARGING WARRANTS ISSUED BY THE LATE BOARD OF THE TREASURY” that was included in Hamilton’s report to the House of 10 Nov. 1792. According to this statement, a total of $157,789.94 had been expended in this process, thus leaving $32,210.06 available for future payments (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 13:42–44).

4Fraunces’s first letter to Hamilton regarding the warrants was that of 15 May 1793, in which Fraunces requested the redemption of “Warrants for a considerable amount” that were “put into my hands.” In his reply of 18 May, Hamilton informed Fraunces that he advised the holders of questionable warrants “to notify them as claims” under “An Act relative to claims against the United States[,] not barred by any act of limitation, and which have not been already adjusted” (ibid., 14:470–71, 476). The act of 12 Feb. 1793 mentioned by Hamilton provided that “all claims upon the United States, for services or supplies, or for other cause, matter or thing, furnished or done, previous to the fourth day of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine, whether founded upon certificates, or other written documents from public officers, or otherwise, which have not already been barred by any act of limitation, and which shall not be presented at the treasury, before the first of May, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-four, shall forever after be barred and precluded from settlement or allowance.” This legislation directed that the auditor of the treasury receive “all such claims aforesaid as have not been barred by any act of limitation (1 Stat description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends ., 301–2).

5Hamilton was replying to Fraunces’s letters to him of 10 June and 1 July 1793 (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 14:528–30, 15:45). Fraunces printed his correspondence with Hamilton and other documents relevant to his claim, including this letter to GW, in a pamphlet entitled An Appeal to the Legislature of the United States, and to the Citizens Individually, of the Several States, Against the Conduct of the Secretary of the Treasury. By Andrew G. Fraunces, Citizen of the State of New-York, Late in the Treasury of the United States. “E tenebris elucidit lux” (New York, 1793).

6The enclosed letter, written at Philadelphia on 26 July 1793, is one from Philadelphia insurance broker John M. Taylor to Fraunces: “Since you left this I have made every possible research into the actual Situation of your Treasury Warrant & I find an Acct-Current of N. Appletons stated by Mr Hillegas late Treasurer of the United States in the Comptrollers Office certified by the Register that of 18,000 Dols. and odd of Warrants drawn on Appleton in said Hillegas favour by the Board of Treasury of which yours is one but 600 remain unpaid[.] If this be true it will appear that William Duer has stolen them off the Files and put them into circulation; Should this be found to be the case a Statute of Bankruptcy even of the United States he cannot have the advantage of until all such Transactions are liquidated & paid off.

“Mr Simmons tells me he will do all in his power to search this out. I shall call on him to day and if he has made the intended Search I will communicate the result thereof. The Comptroller tells me I ought to lodge it as a Claim in the Auditors Office: This request I think is a singular one as these Warrants are a liquidated Debt & even admitting that the Officers of the Treasury have improperly placed Confidence in William Duer who was not a legal appointed Officer. The Individual having confidence in the Publick ought not to suffer by it. Justice forbids it[.] A Court of Law will certainly do justice, and award Principal and Interest from the time of presentment which the Executive Officers of the United States (probably too great Friends of William Duer) denies—I must confess I regret that in this Instance Publick Credit suffers very much” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). On William Simmons and William Duer, see note 7.

7William Simmons (c.1759–1825) was the chief clerk of the auditor’s office in the Treasury Department. He became the accountant to the War Department in 1795 and served in this capacity until dismissed in 1814 (Senate Executive Journal description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends , 179, 181; Simmons to James Madison, 23 Sept. 1814, DLC: Madison Papers). William Duer served as secretary to the Board of the Treasury from 1786 until the new Treasury Department was established in 1789. He received an appointment in September 1789 as the assistant secretary of the treasury, but he resigned after a few months (Hamilton to Duer, 4–7 April 1790, and notes, Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 6:346–47). Contemporaries suspected that Duer used his official positions for his own enrichment and that of his friends. His financial schemes eventually led to his confinement in debtor’s prison in 1792, where he remained until his death in 1799.

8The first warrant, No. 236, was drawn to “Nathaniel Appleton, Esq. Receiver of Continental Taxes, for the State of Massachusetts.” Dated 19 Nov. 1787, it was to pay Michael Hillegas $3,500. The second warrant, No. 1155, was drawn to Michael Hillegas, Esq. Treasurer of the United States of America.” Dated 20 May 1789, it was to pay James O’Hara $2,000 “on account of provisions issued to Indians, from the 1st of December, 1787, to the 30th June, 1788, and on account of 41,789 ½ rations of provisions furnished the Governor of the Western Territory, for Indian Treaties in 1788” (Fraunces, An Appeal description begins Andrew G. Fraunces. An Appeal to the Legislature of the United States, and to the Citizens Individually, of the Several States. Against the Conduct of the Secretary of the Treasury [New York], 1793. description ends , 12–13).

9Fraunces was correct in his assertion that similar warrants had been redeemed. In fact warrant 1157, which was dated 20 May 1789, had been redeemed successfully by William Constable “Assignee of James OHara,” and payment for warrant 237, which was dated 19 Nov. 1787, had been made to “Royal Flint assignee of Michl. Hillegas” (see the entries for warrants 1157 and 237 in “Report on the Receipts and Expenditures of Public Monies to the End of the Year 1791,” 10 Nov. 1792, Syrett, Hamilton Papers, 13:43). On Royal Flint’s tobacco contract with the Board of Treasury, see Hamilton to GW, 9 Aug. 1793 (first letter), and note 18.

10Fraunces was evidently impatient for a reply from GW because on 2 Aug. he wrote a letter addressed to Tobias Lear “or” Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., in which he requested that they “inform him whether the President has determined” on his letter of 30 July (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Lear replied to Fraunces on 3 Aug. that the “Presidt of the U.S. has received your Letter of the 30th of July. The matter of it being of a serious nature he has directed the Secretary of the Treasury to report to him in writing how far the Representation is founded in fact and the reasons on his part for declining the payment of the Warrants. But it is not expected that he can, consistently with objects of more general concern, make his report ’till some time in the ensuing week; in the course of which you will be informed of the result of your application” (Df [in Hamilton’s writing, with additions and changes made by GW and Lear], DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). For Hamilton’s report, see his first letter to GW of 9 Aug. 1793.

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