Alexander Hamilton Papers
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To Alexander Hamilton from Rufus King, 1 May [1796]

From Rufus King1

[Philadelphia] Sunday 1 May [1796]

In committee of the whole on friday it was resolved by the casting vote of Muhlenburgh the chairman, to make provision by Law for carrying the Treaty with England into Effect. Yesterday the Resolution of the Committee of the whole was passed in the House by 51. against 48.2 A proposition to prefix to the Resolution a Preamble declaring the Treaty to be injurious to the Interest of the US. and assigning the short duration of its temporary articles as a reason why it should be permitted to go into Effect, was negatived by 50. against 49.3 and the Resolution was immediately, and without Division, referred to a Committee with instructions to prepare and report a Bill or Bills in conformity with the Resolution. The failure of the Party in their intention to denounce the Treaty, I am fearful will not discourage them in a second attempt. A majority of five or Six (If I am not mistaken) would join in a vote of condemnation, but in the shape in which the proposition was offered, some of the most inveterate Opponents of the treaty, voted in the negative because they said, if they voted for the Preamble, it would be then proper for them to vote for the Resolution which they were determined not to do. Though from the State in which the Business now is, I hope the attempt will not be made, yet if an independent Resolution shd. be offered, declaring the Treaty to be injurious &c &c I am apprehensive it would be adopted. This however would not defeat the Procession for the Execution of the Treaty—51 votes in the affirmative; the speakers vote with that of Mr. Freeman of Massachusetts,4 both of whom are in favor of the Provisions, make 53, affirmative voices, a Majority of the whole Number of Reps.

Yr’s &c

RK

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1For background to this letter, see the introductory note to H to George Washington, March 7, 1796.

2On April 29, 1796, the Committee of the Whole in the House of Representatives passed a resolution “that it is expedient to make the necessary appropriations for carrying the Treaty with Great Britain into effect.” The original vote was 49 to 49, with the tie being broken by Frederick A. C. Muhlenberg voting in his capacity as chairman of the committee (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 , V, 1280). On April 30 the House approved the resolution by a vote of 51 to 48 (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 , V, 1291). King’s tabulation of the vote on April 30 is attached to his letter to H. It reads:

“on passing Resolution

Ayes Noes Absent
N. H. 3 0 1 on leave
Mass 10 3 1 Do
RI 2 0 0
 
Con 7 0 0
Ver 1 1 0
NY 7 3 0
NJ 5 0 0
Penn 7 5 1 skulked
Del 0 0 1 sick
Mar 6 1 1 resigned
Virg 1 18 0
N C. 1 9 0
SC. 2 4 0
Geo. 0 2 0
Kent  0  2 0
52 48 5”

The affirmative vote of 52 rather than 51 is accounted for by King’s inclusion under New Jersey of the vote of the Speaker of the House, Jonathan Dayton.

3This resolution was proposed by Henry Dearborn of Massachusetts on April 30, 1796, and reads: “Resolved, That, although in the opinion of this House the Treaty is highly objectionable, and may prove injurious to the United States, yet, considering all the circumstances relating thereto, and particularly, that the last eighteen articles are to continue in force only during the present war, and two years thereafter, and confiding also in the efficacy of measures that may be taken for bringing about a discontinuance of the violations committed on our neutral rights, in regard to our vessels and seamen, therefore, &c.” During debate on this resolution, Samuel Smith of Maryland moved “to strike out the word ‘highly,’ so as to read objectionable, instead of ‘highly objectionable.’” The vote on Smith’s resolution resulted in a tie of 48 to 48. The tie was broken by the affirmative vote of the Speaker of the House, Jonathan Dayton. Following a brief debate, the vote was taken on the amended motion and it was “decided in the negative, as follows: Yeas 49, Nays 50” (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 , V, 1282, 1287, 1289).

4Nathaniel Freeman was absent when the resolution for implementing the Jay Treaty was passed by 51 to 48 (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 , V, 1291–92).

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