George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Hamilton, 14 June 1794

From Alexander Hamilton

[c.14 June 1794]

The Secretary of the Treasury presents his respects to the President. He had thought that the appointment of a Supervisor for pennsylvania might without inconvenience be deferred ’till the return of the President, & therefore deferred mentioning it.1 But on more particular reflection as a new revenue year commences with the first of July, he believes it would be of use to accelerate the appointment.

The persons who have more particularly occurred to the enquiries of the Secretary (and his enquiries have been particular & extensive)—are General Hand, now an Inspector, Colo. Henry Miller of York County, Charles Biddle of this City,2 Colo. Francis Nichols, M: Clarkson mayor & Major Lenox.

General Hand from situation wou’d claim particular consideration. But the Secretary with much esteem for that Gentleman on all personal accounts is obliged in duty to say that he has been so materially defective in the execution of his present office3 as to forbid an assurance that the superior one would be executed by him with due attention & exertion. And it is of vast consequence to the revenue & to the Government that no mistake should be committed in the present choice.

Of the persons named, Colo. Miller, all circumstances considered, has the judgment of the Secretary in his favour. All agree that he is a man of good character of friendly dispositions to the Government & Laws of the U. States—of industry, exertion, address & distinguished firmness—of adequate, tho’ not superior ability, and most likely of any man on whom equal dependence can be placed, to have weight in the most refractory scene of this State. He is also a man of decent property unembarrassed. Among those who warmly recommend him is Mr Ross, Senator of this State—who lives in one of the most western Counties.4

Mr Biddle has many things in his favor. perhaps he has more ability than any of the persons named, and no doubts are entertained of his firmness, activity or attention. His connections and influence are principally among the malcontents. But most persons who have been consulted entertain an unfavorable impression of his political principles, & think there is not full assurance that he would not sacrifice the duties of his station & the interests of the Government to party considerations. He was named by the Democratic Society vice President—which he has it seems neither accepted nor publicly disavowed. Several attach an idea of cunning & duplicity to the character. One good judge of characters thinks favorably of his principles & that reliance may be placed. But the result of a comprehensive inquiry is that there would be hazard in the appointment and the case is believed to be one in which nothing ought to be hazarded.

Colo. Nichols & Major Lenox stand nearly on a level—both men of adequate understanding, honorable characters, some property, undoubted firmness, & probable exertion, but on the last point there is greater assurance of Major Lenox. But neither of these gentlemen seem to have that extensive notoriety & popularity of character which is desirable to assist the progress of disagreeable laws. In this particular Mr Miller or Mr Biddle has greatly the advantage.

Mr Clarkson has several things in his favor, perhaps rather more ability than most of the other persons. But he wants bodily activity, which may be a point of consequence & he is said to be much embarrassed in his circumstances.

The Secretary has committed these remarks to writting not wishing to intrude on the President today, & desirous of placing the subject immediately before him.

If he should conclude on the person before he leaves town it is requested that he would leave a Commission signed but not completed in order that it may be previously ascertained whether Mr Miller will accept.5

Sunday June 14. 1794.6

Among the persons who have been consulted is the Attorney General. He gave a preference to Mr Miller. His knowledge of State-characters is diffusive & accurate.7 Mr Miller was lately a very promising candidate for the place of Senator in the Senate of the U. States.8


1George Clymer had recently resigned the position of supervisor of the revenue for Pennsylvania.

2Henry Miller (1751-1824) served as lieutenant colonel of the 2d Pennsylvania Regiment during the Revolutionary War. After the war, he represented York County in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, 1783-1785, and served as a delegate to the state constitutional convention of 1790. He was at this time a brigadier general of York County militia. Charles Biddle (1745-1821) served as vice president of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Executive Council from October 1785 to October 1787. He was at this time prothonotary of the court of common pleas for Philadelphia County.

3The Revolutionary War general Edward Hand was at this time inspector of the revenue for survey number 3 (a revenue subdistrict) in Pennsylvania.

4James Ross (1762-1847), a Washington County lawyer, served as a senator from Pennsylvania from April 1794 to March 1803. Ross grew up in York County.

5Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., wrote Hamilton on 16 June: "By the Presidents order Bw Dandridge transmits to the Secretary of the Treasury a Commission signed by the President, but not completed, for the Supervisor of Pennsylvania. The President thinks it should be known with certainty that Col. Miller will accept, before his name is inserted" (DLC:GW). Tench Coxe wrote Miller on 17 June that "if you can make it convenient to move to Philada the office is in your power" (PHi: Tench Coxe Papers). Initially reluctant, Miller arrived at Philadelphia on 26 June, and during that visit he agreed to accept the appointment, which was announced by 1 July (see Thomas Hartley to Coxe, 17 and 24 June, PHi: Tench Coxe Papers; Coxe to Hamilton, 27 June, and Hamilton to Coxe, 28 June, Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 16:533-34, 536; Coxe to Edmund Randolph, 30 June, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser, 1 July).

614 June 1794 fell on Saturday.

7On 16 June, Secretary of State Edmund Randolph and Attorney General William Bradford wrote GW "that they have made the necessary enquiries into the characters of those that have occurred to the Secretary of the Treasury as objects for the appointment of Supervisor for Pennsylvania, & they are of opinion that under all circumstances Colo. Henry Miller is the most eligible person. He appears to them to be a man of abilities, of business, of real spirit & great popularity, and well qualified to discharge the duties of that office" (LB, DLC:GW).

8When the Pennsylvania legislature voted for U.S. senator in February 1793, Miller received 35 votes, finishing second behind Albert Gallatin, who had 45 votes (Journal of the First Session of the Third House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Which Commenced at Philadelphia, on Tuesday, the Fourth Day of December, in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety-Two [Philadelphia, 1792], 219-21).

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