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

To Oliver Wolcott, Junior

New York May 27. 1796

Dr. Sir

The Patterson manufactory being defunct,1 the persons heretofore employed are thrown out of business and among them Mr. Marshall who erected & directed the Cotton Mill.2 As this man has proved that he understands himself & is a discreet well-moralled man I am loth that he should be under the necessity of leaving the Country. He is a man of some education. Besides a considerable knowlege of mechanics & some of surveying he writes a good hand and good English. I have thought that perhaps temporarily some employment as a copying Clerk in some one of the Offices might be found for him. Can this be? Let me hear from you in answer as soon as may be. He is a decent man in his demeanour.

Yrs. truly

A Hamilton

Oliver Wolcott Jur. Esq

Mr. Dickson, an American Citizen, by birth, who has been concerned in establishing & means to conduct in person the Cotton Manufactory at New Haven3 is desirous of contracting to supply the army with Cotton shirts of his own fabric. As I cannot help still hoping this manufacture may succeed in a scene so favourable to it as New Haven—as it will have a fair chance under Mr. Dickson who is attentive industrious & has now had a good deal of experience, I think there would be a public policy in facilitating to him the supply he desires for a good proportion of the shirts which the army will require at a price which will allow a reasonable profit. This business may be detached from the general contract & be the subject of a particular agreement. Mr. Dickson assures greater strength & duration than India Cotton or than linnen. This idea may assist an experiment. General Knox4 made one of Cotton shirts & I understood him thought well of it.

ALS, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.

1By 1796 it was clear to all concerned that the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures, in which H had played a prominent part and to which he had been elected a director on November 24, 1795 (“Minutes of the S.U.M.,” description begins MS minutes of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures, City of Paterson, New Jersey, Plant Management Commission, Successors to the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures. description ends 115), was not going to make a profit in the foreseeable future. At a meeting on January 25, 1796, the directors of the society resolved that in view of the fact that the society could not continue “any further without evident loss…, the Superintendant be directed to put a Stop to every species of manufacture as soon as the work in hand is so far compleated as to prepare them for Sale, & that the Superintendant be authorized to raise Money on the Goods of the Society by Sale at vendue or otherways as he shall Judge most prudent—and that he be authorized to discharge immediately every person not necessary to carry this resolution into execution” (“Minutes of the S.U.M.,” description begins MS minutes of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures, City of Paterson, New Jersey, Plant Management Commission, Successors to the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures. description ends 119). At a subsequent meeting the stockholders voted “that the Superintendant be authorized to advertise the works for renting” (“Minutes of the S.U.M.,” description begins MS minutes of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures, City of Paterson, New Jersey, Plant Management Commission, Successors to the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures. description ends 120).

2Thomas Marshall, an Englishman, had been in charge of the society’s cotton mill since 1791. See Marshall to H, July 19, 1791, note 1. At a meeting on April 19, 1796, the directors “Resolved that the Superintendant be authorised to discharge Mr. Thos Marshall from the Service of the Society” (“Minutes of the S.U.M.,” description begins MS minutes of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures, City of Paterson, New Jersey, Plant Management Commission, Successors to the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures. description ends 120).

3In the early seventeen-nineties David Dickson, who was a native of England (and not of the United States, as H states), established a cotton mill in northeastern Manhattan on the East River. His partners were Andrew Stockholm, John R. Livingston, and John Leary, Jr. in the winter of 1793–94, Dickson, Livingston, and William McIntosh opened a cotton mill in New Haven, Connecticut. See William R. Bagnall, The Textile Industries of the United States (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1893), I, 184, 188–90.

4Henry Knox, former Secretary of War.

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