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To Alexander Hamilton from John Johnston, 1 June 1804

From John Johnston

June 1, 1804. “You may recollect that previous to Mr Caines marriage with my sister Mrs Verplanck,1 I applied to you and Mr Charles Wilkes2 to become trustees together with Mr Keese3 in a marriage settlement.… I am induced to request you to take such steps as you may think necessary to secure the property vested in you by the settlement.”4

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1George Caines, who had been a lawyer in Bermuda before he came to New York City, where he also practiced law, was the author of Lex Mercatoria Americana (New York, 1802). On May 27, 1802, he married Cornelia Johnston Verplanck, widow of Gulian Verplanck, who had been president of the Bank of New York from 1791 to 1799 (New-York Evening Post, June 7, 1802).

2Wilkes was cashier of the Bank of New York.

3John Keese was a New York City notary.

4Gulian Verplanck died in 1799, and in his will left all his real and personal estate to his wife for life and after her death to his children. The executors, one of whom was Johnston, and Cornelia Verplanck, who was the executrix, in accordance with the authority under the will sold parts of the real estate and accepted bonds and mortgages as security for the purchase money. When Caines married Cornelia Verplanck, he came into possession or controlled some of the money in question, and he refused to give any account of such funds to Verplanck’s children, who were the eventual heirs. In 1814 the heirs in a bill in Chancery asked for an account of the principal and interest which had been received and requested that “all the said bonds and mortgages … be assigned to John Johnston, with power to receive the moneys, and to pay the interest thereon, annually, to the defendants, during the life of the wife, or that some other fit person be appointed receiver of the moneys, &c.” The defendants “demurred to so much of the bill as sought a discovery of the sums received by the defendants for interest, and to that part which prayed for the appointment of a receiver, &c.” The chancellor ruled that the “defendants are not bound to account for, or, perhaps, to disclose the amount of interest which has been received by them,” for the “interest belongs exclusively to the defendants.… But … they are accountable” for the principal due on the sales of the real estate. The chancellor, however, ruled against the demurrer by the defendants (William Johnson, Reports of Cases Adjudged in the Court of Chancery of New-York [Philadelphia, 1836], I, 57–59).

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