Alexander Hamilton Papers
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To Alexander Hamilton from Rufus King, 21 January 1799

From Rufus King

Lond. Jan. 21. 1799.

Dear sir

We have the new york Papers to the 15. ult. These contain the Speech1 as well as the answers of the two Houses.2 All seems intended for the best, but it gives an ill Idea abroad of our Zeal, to find that our Army decreed so many months since remained to be raised. The difficulty and time necessary to find suitable Officers, reminds one of the like impediments which preceded the appointment of Monro to Paris.3 I hope the Results will differ.

I am entirely disposed, indeed resolved, to treat the subject as the good Principles of all concerned merit; but I can’t conceal from you my very great apprehension that too much is left to the chance & influence of Intrigue & diplomatic Skill. In the Light in wh. alone I can see the views of france, there seems to be no secure alternative; and the sooner we so say, and act, the less will be our Danger.

For gods sake attend to the very interesting Subject treated of in my ciphered Dispatches to the Sec. of State of the 10. 18. & 19. instant.4 Connect it as it shd. be, with the main object, the time to accomplish wh. has arrived. Without superstition, Providence seems to have prepared the way and to have pointed out the instruments of its will. Our children will reproach us if we neglect our Duty; and Humanity will escape many Scourges if we act with wisdom & Decision. I am more confirmed than before that an efficient Force will be confederated to act agt: France. The Combination is not yet, compleated,5 but as I have reason to believe, will soon be.

That will be the moment for us to settle upon immutable Foundations the extensive System of the american Station. Who can hinder us? One nation alone has the power; and She will cooperate in the accomplishment in So. Amer.6 of what has been so well done in North.

Adieu! Yrs ever

R K

P.S. Mr. Church7 knows very well Col. Maitland!!8

AL[S], Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1For John Adams’s speech to Congress on December 8, 1798, see 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 , IX, 2420–24.

2The Senate replied to Adams’s speech on December 11, 1798 (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 , VIII, 2192–93), and the House replied on December 13, 1798 (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 , IX, 2438–39).

3James Monroe had been appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to France on May 28, 1794 (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 157), but he was not George Washington’s first choice for this position. See “List of Names From Whence to Take a Minister for France,” May 19, 1794, note 1.

4In this sentence King confused the dates and numbers of his dispatches to Timothy Pickering. He meant to refer to Dispatch No. 17 (dated January 10, 1799), Dispatch No. 18 (January 14, 1799), and Dispatch No. 19 (January 16, 1799).

Dispatches Nos. 17 and 19 concern United States relations with Santo Domingo, while Dispatch No. 18 discusses a new French decree that would affect American commerce adversely (copies, RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to Great Britain, 1791–1906, Vol. 8, January 3, 1799–December 18, 1800, National Archives). In reference to Santo Domingo, King reported that he was conferring with Lord Grenville on the possibility of a joint Anglo-American approach both to trade with the island and to the steps to be taken to prevent its slave insurrection from spreading to other countries. For Adams’s reaction to King’s proposals, see Adams to Pickering, April 17, 1799 (LC, Adams Family Papers, deposited in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston).

5This is a reference to the first steps in the formation of the Second Coalition against France. On December 23, 1798, Turkey and Russia concluded a defensive and offensive alliance, and on January 2, 1799, Great Britain joined this alliance. The other important member of the coalition was Austria. France declared war on Austria on March 12, 1799.

6This is a reference to Francisco de Miranda’s plans for the liberation of the Spanish colonies in the western hemisphere. See Miranda to H, April 1, 1797, February 7, April 6–June 7, August 17, October 19–November 10, 1798; H to Miranda, August 22, 1798; King to H, May 12, July 31, October 20, 1798; H to King, August 22, 1798; Pickering to H, August 21–22, 1798.

7John B. Church, Elizabeth Hamilton’s brother-in-law.

8In Dispatch No. 19 King had written to Pickering: “… they [the British] have concluded immediately to send Colo. Maitland on a frigate to New-York with full power to Mr. Liston. Col. Maitland who made the Convention with Toussaint, to settle the business between us and them and then to proceed with an agent on our part to St. Domingo in order to conclude it there.”

Thomas Maitland had had firsthand experience with Santo Domingo, for he had served there under John Graves Simcoe, the former lieutenant governor of Upper Canada. Simcoe had been sent to Santo Domingo in 1796 to take command of the British part of the island. He was replaced in 1798, and in the interval between his departure and the arrival of his successor, Maitland arranged with François Dominique Toussaint L’Ouverture, the de facto ruler of Haiti and its former slaves, for the gradual evacuation of the British troops to Jamaica. On August 31, 1798, Maitland signed a secret treaty with Toussaint in which England agreed not to interfere with French Santo Domingo and Toussaint agreed not to interfere with Jamaica. Maitland returned to England, and in early 1799 he was sent to the United States, where he arrived on April 2, 1799, with Lord Grenville’s instructions for a proposed Anglo-American agreement concerning trade with Santo Domingo.

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