Alexander Hamilton Papers
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From Alexander Hamilton to Oliver Wolcott, Junior, 27 October 1796

To Oliver Wolcott, Junior

Albany October 27
1796

Dear Sir

Your letter of the 17th instant found me at Albany attending the Supreme Court. I have no copy of the Treaty with G B at hand, but I am well satisfied from memory that the true interpretation of that Treaty, enforcing in this respect the true Rule of neutrality, forbids our permitting the sale of a prize taken & brought in by a French National Ship, equally as if by a Privateer—and that the prise vessel herself with her Cargo ought to depart our Ports.1 I hasten to give you my opinion thus far. I reserve to consider more at leisure what exceptions absolute necessity may justify. But this is clear, that as far as it may admit any, the exception must be measured & restricted by the necessity & as soon as possible you must return into the path of the Treaty.

Thus if the prize Vessel was absolutely insufficient to proceed to sea—her cargo ought to be sent out of the Country in another Vessel & care ought to be taken that it does not go out under false colours. Our Own Officers no doubt must inspect & ascertain any case of necessity which may be suggested.2

Pray my good friend Let there be no evasions.

Yrs. Affecty

A Hamilton

O W Esq

ALS, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford; copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Article 24 of the Jay Treaty reads: “It shall not be lawful for any Foreign Privateers (not being Subjects or Citizens of either of the said Parties) who have Commissions from any other Prince or State in Enmity with either Nation, to arm their Ships in the Ports of either of the said Parties, nor to sell what they have taken, nor in any other manner to exchange the same, nor shall they be allowed to purchase more provisions than shall be necessary for their going to the nearest Port of that Prince or State from whom they obtained their Commissions” (Miller, Treaties, II description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (Washington, 1931), II. description ends , 262). See also “Remarks on the Treaty … between the United States and Great Britain,” July 9–11, 1795, in which H indicated his approval of the clause forbidding the sale of prizes in the port of one party by privateers in the service of the enemies of the other. In the “Remarks” H made no distinction between French privateers and French national ships, suggesting that the prohibition covered all French ships.

2See Article 25 of the Jay Treaty, which reads in part: “… No Shelter or Refuge shall be given in their Ports to such as have made a Prize upon the Subjects or Citizens of either of the said Parties; but if forced by stress of weather or the Dangers of the Sea, to enter therein, particular care shall be taken to hasten their departure, and to cause them to retire as soon as possible” (Miller, Treaties, II description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (Washington, 1931), II. description ends , 262).

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