George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Hamilton, 18 August 1794

From Alexander Hamilton

Philadelphia Aug: 18. 1794.

The Secretary of the Treasury submits to the President the draft of a letter on the subject of the proscribed privateers.1 Would it not be adviseable to communicate the matter to the French minister & to request his cooperation in causing our ports to be no longer affronted by those vessels?2

The appointment of Collectors for the Districts of Hampton & Snow-Hill is become urgent, the present incumbents having reiterated their requests that they might be relieved. Names have been placed before the President by letter in the first Case,3 & in the last verbally.

The enclosed papers will remind the President of the state of the business in each case. The Secretary wishes it may appear to him expedient to name Mister Jones for Hampton.4

He has been able to obtain no light as to Mr Randolph’s suggestion respecting Mister Selby, but he imagines the present Collector would not recommend a person really obnoxious to his fellow Citizens.5 There are some other vacancies to be filled, which the Secretary will shortly have the honor of conferring with The President concerning.

A. Hamilton.


1Hamilton enclosed a draft of the circular letter he sent out on this date to the various state governors "on the subject of those French privateers fitted out in our ports, which you have been heretofore informed were to be denied asylum within the United states except upon the condition of being dismantled of their military equipments." Hamilton informed the governors, "The subsequent conduct of some of these Vessels is a matter of real embarrassment and dissatisfaction. By running from one port to another, they have in effect enjoyed the asylum, it was intended to deny them, and have thereby placed the Government in the unpleasant situation not only of seeing itself trifled with but of being liable to the suspicion of connivance in an evasion of its positive assurances to Foreign powers.

"It is inadmissible that such a state of things should continue. And therefore the President has come to a resolution to cause every such Vessel which since the promulgation of his instruction to refuse them asylum, shall have been in a port of the United states so as to have had an opportunity to acquire a knowledge of that instruction, and which shall hereafter be found in any port or district of the United states to be deprived of her military equipments."

After requesting each governor’s "effectual cooperation" in carrying the resolution "into execution" within the governor’s state, Hamilton added, "While the reasons which have been assigned beget a solicitude in the President that the measure may be punctually and completely executed, there are weighty considerations which induce him to wish that it may be found practicable to accomplish it in each case without bloodshed. To this end it will be useful that any force which may be employed for the purpose should be such as will controul a disposition to resist" (LS, addressed to Joshua Clayton, PP; see also Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 17:107-8).

2Secretary of State Edmund Randolph wrote French Minister Jean-Antoine-Joseph Fauchet on 20 Aug., "transmitting to you a copy of certain rules, instituted by the President of the United States in relation to the belligerent powers." Randolph then addressed the specific case of the Carmagnole, noting that "The rules above referred to will not permit an illicit privateer, as she has been deemed to be, to make any reparations within the United States" (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

4The enclosed papers have not been identified. On 23 Aug., GW signed commissions for Thomas Jones, a former postmaster at Hampton, as collector for the Hampton District and for the port of Hampton in Virginia (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 318). Jones was nominated to the Senate and confirmed in December (Senate Executive Journal, 165). He resigned as collector in 1796.

5Neither Mr. Randolph’s suggestion nor the recommendation by the present collector, John Gunby, has been identified. GW signed a commission for William Selby "to be Collector for the District of Snow hill in Maryland; & Inspector of the revenue for the sevl. ports within the sd. District" on 23 Aug. (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 318). Selby was nominated to the Senate and confirmed in December (Senate Executive Journal, 165). He was replaced as collector in 1803, when his opponents argued that he selected deputies only from among those who shared his opposition to the Jefferson administration (letters recommending John Cutler in DNA: RG 59, Letters of Application and Recommendation during the Administration of Thomas Jefferson).

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