Alexander Hamilton Papers
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To Alexander Hamilton from Rufus King, 9 November 1798

From Rufus King

London Nov. 9. 1798

Dear sir

The same uncertainty continues respecting the recommencement of the war. Both austria & Prussia are bolder than before the late naval success of this Country,1 but the conduct of the Emperor2 is rather calculated to shew that he may be purchased by further acquisitions in Italy. Naples will not decline a war;3 her existence perhaps depends upon his provoking it. The Casus fœderis with austria is a defensive war; but the Emperor has said he should not be critical on that Head. The news of the Capitulation of Buonaparte and the Destruction of the transports at Alexandria is not confirmed, tho’ they are events which must take place. The Expeditions agt. Ireland are annihilated—of the Nine ships that sailed from Brest seven including the Hoche are in the English Ports4—the two frigates that escaped from the Texel have both been taken,5 and of three that sailed from Rochefort, & appeared off Ireland soon after the defeat of the Brest squadron, two are said to be taken.6

The Dutch frigates were probably bound to Demarara, tho the Soldiers were told they were to go to Ireland.

Parliament meets on the 20th. Mr. Pitt will have a good account to give of the extension of their Commerce and of the increase of the Revenue. The assessed taxes which have been shamefully evaded will be given up, and a tax upon the income of the nation substituted.7 There will be great Difficulties in the Details, as well as strong prejudices to overcome, but I hear that the Body of Merchants in London are to support the Plan.8 The late naval Success has excited a high degree of animation throughout the nation, and the Govt. will be generally and cordially supported in such measures as it shall adopt to prosecute the war. The funds have got up to 57. pr Ct. which is a great rise and in a short time. You will see that I have prevented the sending to you of about fifty Irish State Prisoners, who were at the head of the Rebellion in Ireland and closely connected with the Directory of Paris.9 Probably our Patriots will think my conduct presumptuous.

In the present posture of our affairs I could have no hesitation! We have an account that the Constellation Cap Truxton has taken a french frigate on our Coast.10

This news is brought by Cap Cochran of the Thetis,11 who will not be permitted to return to the amer. station.

Yrs very truly

PS. The Hamburgh mail just arrived, informs us that very great Resistance is made to the Requisition of 200.000 men in Belgium. 12.000 young men are embodied, and the spirit of Revolt extends itself every hour! The scene is too near the army of the Rhine.

AL, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; copy, New-York Historical Society, New York City.

1This is a reference to the Battle of the Nile, August 1, 1798.

2Francis II of Austria. On November 10, 1798, King wrote to Timothy Pickering: “The same uncertainty continues with respect to the recommencement of the war between Austria and France, and for nearly three weeks we are without any precise information from France” (LS, RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to Great Britain, 1791–1906, Vol. 7, January 9–December 22, 1798, National Archives).

3On October 15, 1798, The [London] Times reported: “A long article in the Redacteur, relative to the hostile preparations of the Court of Naples, confirms the general opinion that a rupture between the French Republic and that Court will shortly take place.” Four days later The Times stated: “Hostilities between the King of Naples and France appear every day more inevitable.”

5On November 6, 1798, The [London] Times printed a report from Hull dated November 3. This report reads: “The Sirius frigate, of 36 guns, Capt. [Richard] King, arrived in the Humber yesterday, with the Fury, Dutch frigate of 36 guns, in tow. Capt. King fell in with this frigate and another of 26 guns, off the Texel; the latter he took without exchanging a shot, and immediately sent her for Yarmouth Roads, and then went in pursuit of the Fury. After a long chace and running fight of 40 minutes, he obliged her to strike to the superior gallantry of British seamen. She had 500 men, including soldiers, on board, and a large quantity of stores, soldier’s arms, baggage &c. It is reported that the Sirius had one man killed, and one wounded; the Dutch frigate had ten men killed and several wounded. The Officers and Men are all Frenchmen, and are intended to be landed here.…” Richard King’s official dispatch describing the captures is printed in The [London] Times, November 7, 1798.

6On October 20, 1798, The [London] Times reported: “The three French frigates which appeared on the 13th in Donegal Bay, left it, without any serious attempt to land. They are supposed to be wholly detached from the larger squadron [which had sailed from Brest], and to have sailed from Rochefort.” On October 23 the same paper stated: “Several private letters by the Dublin Mail … contain the very agreeable news, that the three frigates, which appeared off Donegal Bay on the 13th instant, had been driven into Sligo Bay, but whether by stress of weather, or by the squadron of Sir George Home, is not mentioned. But the … Government has received no official information on the subject.”

7For William Pitt’s proposals to Parliament, see The Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politics, and Literature, for the Year 1799 (London, 1813), 174–77.

8On November 9, 1798, The [London] Times reported that “the Committee for superintending the Voluntary Contributions” resolved: “That the Committee was determined to give their most decided support to every measure of finance which could give stability to Government, and distribute the burthens equally among all classes of society; that it was, however, with concern the Committee had learnt that the Assessed Taxes had been in many instances most shamefully evaded, while in other cases they did not reach those who were best able to pay them;—they therefore begged leave to recommend to the Minister some other mode of taxation, which would oblige every man to contribute in proportion to his means.”

9On July 28, 1798, King wrote to Pickering: “In Ireland the Rebellion is at an end …; many of the inferior chiefs will be permitted to go into Exile. I … hope the President will have Power to exclude from our Country all such foreigners whose residence among us would be dangerous …” (ALS, RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to Great Britain, 1791–1906, Vol. 7, January 9–December 22, 1798, National Archives). On September 13 King wrote to Pickering warning him of the possibility that the leaders of the Irish rebellion might end up as exiles in the United States (ALS, RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to Great Britain, 1791–1906, Vol. 7, January 9–December 22, 1798, National Archives). On September 13 and October 17 King wrote to William Henry Cavendish Bentinck, third duke of Portland, asking for some assurances that the rebel leaders would not be permitted to settle in the United States (copies, RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to Great Britain, 1791–1906, Vol. 7, January 9–December 22, 1798s, National Archives). On September 22 the Duke of Portland wrote to King: “I can assure you with the most perfect confidence that the King will never permit any of the persons in question to set his foot in the Territory of any state in amity with his Majesty, by whom there is any reason to suppose that such a visitor would be objected to” (copy, RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to Great Britain, 1791–1906, Vol. 7, January 9–December 22, 1798, National Archives). See also the Duke of Portland to Charles Cornwallis, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, October 17, 1798 (copy, RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to Great Britain, 1791–1906, Vol. 7, January 9–December 22, 1798, National Archives).

10On November 9, 1798, The [London] Times reported: “The American frigate Constellation, of 36 guns, has captured a French frigate of 44 guns, after a severe and well-fought action, off the Coast of America.” This report was not correct.

11Sir Alexander Forester Inglis Cochrane. See H to King, June 6, 1798.

On October 31, 1798, The [London] Times reported that “… the Thetis frigate, Capt. Cochrane, from Halifax” arrived on October 29 in Portsmouth.

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