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From Alexander Hamilton to Rufus King, 11 June 1795

To Rufus King

New York June 11. 1795

Dear Sir

I thank you for your letter of the 10th.1 The case has been with me as with you. Reflection has not mitigated the exceptionable point.2 Yet it will be to be lamented if no mode can be devised to save the main object and close the irritable questions which are provided for.3 Every thing besides an absolute & simple ratification will put something in jeopardy. But while on the one hand, I think it adviseable to hazard as little as possible—on the other I would be willing to hazard something and unwilling to see a very objectionable principle put into activity.

It is to be observed that no time is fixed for the ratification of the Treaty. It may then be ratified with a collateral instruction to make a declaration that the UStates consider the article in question aggregately taken as intended by the King of G B as a privilege; that they conceive it for their interest to forbear the exercise of that privilege with the condition annexed to it till an explanation in order to a new modification of it shall place it on a more acceptable footing or till an article to be sent to our minister4 containing that modification shall be agreed upon between him & the British Court as a part of the Treaty—the ratification not to [be] exchanged without further instruction from this country unless accepted in this sense and with this qualification.

This course appears to me preferable to sending back the Treaty to open the negotiation anew because it may save time on the points most interesting to us & I do not see that if the ratifications be exchanged with this saving there can be any doubt of the matter operating as intended.

Adieu Yrs. truly

A Hamilton

Rufus King Esq

ALS, New-York Historical Society, New York City.

1Letter not found.

2This is a reference to Article 12 of the Jay Treaty. The Senate considered the treaty in a special session which had convened on June 8, 1795. The contents of the Jay Treaty, a copy of which had been delivered to Edmund Randolph in Philadelphia on March 7, 1795, had not been made public when H wrote the above letter to King. See John Jay to H, November 19, 1794, note 1; Robert Troup to H, May 11, 1795, note 9.

Article 12 of the Jay Treaty reads: “His Majesty Consents that it shall and may be lawful, during the time hereinafter Limited, for the Citizens of the United States, to carry to any of His Majesty’s Islands and Ports in the West Indies from the United States in their own Vessels, not being above the burthen of Seventy Tons, any Goods or Merchandizes, being of the Growth, Manufacture, or Produce of the said States, which it is, or may be lawful to carry to the said Islands or Ports from the said States in British Vessels, and that the said American Vessels shall be subject there to no other or higher Tonnage Duties or Charges, than shall be payable by British Vessels, in the Ports of the United States; and that the Cargoes of the said American Vessels, shall be subject there to no other or higher Duties or Charges, than shall be payable on the like Articles, if imported there from the said States in British vessels.

“And His Majesty also consents that it shall be lawful for the said American Citizens to purchase, load and carry away, in their said vessels to the United States from the said Islands and Ports, all such articles being of the Growth, Manufacture or Produce of the said Islands, as may now by Law be carried from thence to the said States in British Vessels, and subject only to the same Duties and Charges on Exportation to which British Vessels and their Cargoes are or shall be subject in similar circumstances.

“Provided always that the said American vessels do carry and land their Cargoes in the United States only, it being expressly agreed and declared that during the Continuance of this article, the United States will prohibit and restrain the carrying any Melasses, Sugar, Coffee, Cocoa or Cotton in American vessels, either from His Majesty’s Islands or from the United States, to any part of the World, except the United States, reasonable Sea Stores excepted. Provided also, that it shall and may be lawful during the same period for British vessels to import from the said Islands into the United States, and to export from the United States to the said Islands, all Articles whatever being of the Growth, Produce or Manufacture of the said Islands, or of the United States respectively, which now may, by the Laws of the said States, be so imported and exported. And that the Cargoes of the said British vessels, shall be subject to no other or higher Duties or Charges, than shall be payable on the same articles if so imported or exported in American Vessels.

“It is agreed that this Article, and every Matter and Thing therein contained, shall continue to be in Force, during the Continuance of the war in which His Majesty is now engaged; and also for Two years from and after the Day of the signature of the Preliminary or other Articles of Peace by which the same may be terminated.

“And it is further agreed that at the expiration of the said Term, the Two Contracting Parties will endeavour further to regulate their Commerce in this respect, according to the situation in which His Majesty may then find Himself with respect to the West Indies, and with a view to such Arrangements, as may best conduce to the mutual advantage and extension of Commerce. And the said Parties will then also renew their discussions, and endeavour to agree, whether in any and what cases Neutral Vessels shall protect Enemy’s property; and in what cases provisions and other articles not generally Contraband may become such. But in the mean time their Conduct towards each other in these respects, shall be regulated by the articles hereinafter inserted on those subjects.” (Miller, Treaties, II description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (Washington, 1931), II. description ends , 254–55.)

3Because (as H indicates in this and the following sentence) there was considerable danger that opposition to Article 12 might prevent the approval of the entire treaty, on June 17 the following resolution was made and seconded in the Senate: “Resolved, (two-thirds of the Senate concurring therein,) That they do consent to, and advise the President of the United States, to ratify the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, between His Britannic Majesty and the United States of America, concluded at London, the 19th day of November, 1794, on condition that there be added to the said Treaty an article whereby it shall be agreed to suspend the operation of so much of the 12th article as respects the trade which his said Majesty thereby consents may be carried on between the United States and his Islands in the West Indies, in the manner, and on the terms and conditions therein specified.

“And the Senate recommends to the President, to proceed, without delay, to further friendly negotiations with His Majesty, on the subject of the said trade, and of the terms and conditions in question.” (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , IV, 859.)

After a week of debate, the Senate on June 24 “unanimously agreed to” the resolution of June 17 and “Ordered, That the Secretary lay the resolution before the President of the United States” (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , IV, 863).

As a result of this resolution the following article was subsequently appended to the treaty: “It is further agreed between the said contracting parties, that the operation of so much of the twelfth Article of the said Treaty as respects the trade which his said Majesty thereby consents may be carried on between the United States and his Islands in the West Indies, in the manner and on the terms and conditions therein specified, shall be suspended” (Miller, Treaties, II description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (Washington, 1931), II. description ends , 266–67).

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