Alexander Hamilton Papers
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To Alexander Hamilton from Rufus King, 27 June 1797

From Rufus King

London June 27. 1797

Dear sir

Lord Malmesbury will leave London in three or four Days for Lille where the conferences between this Country and France are to be held.1 Opinions fluctuate concerning the Probability of peace. A Struggle evidently exists in France between the Directory & the Legislature, in the latter of which Bodies it is supposed there is a sincere desire of Peace.

Some late proceedings in the Legislature, or rather in the Council of 500, give Occasion to hope that our Affairs are in train to assume a more friendly appearance.

If as many assert the public Opinion is friendly to America, it will be employed by the Legislature agt. the Directory wh. at this moment is viewed as a rival Power. We have just recd. the Presidents Speech;2 it has arrived at a critical hour.

You will perceive by the News Papers that all Italy will be overturned—Venice is no more;3 and Genoa has been completely revolutionized by Citizen Faypoult the Minister of France.4 Portugal sees, but seems unable to escape, her Fate.5

Tho’ these are days of wonder, still one dares not believe all we hear—the march already made by France has astonished, and confounded almost every Beholder. And we are told that she meditates and will attempt Projects still more gigantic than those She has executed—Plans which will operate a Change in the whole face of Europe, and which extend to every other Quarter of the Globe. Russia may be able to preserve her Dominions from the fire that is passing over the neighbouring Countries: this Nation has lately renewed her commercial Treaty with Russia6—and by an arrangement of their mutual Intts. may strengthen their common Defence. It may be worth remarking that during the negotiation Russia never even proposed the project of the armed neutrality. so that the omission of the requisite provisions on that subject may be considered as an abandonment of the System by Russia.

Russia is to be treated in the Brit: Ports upon the same footing as the most favored European Nation.7

Farewell yrs &c

R. King

Colo. Hamilton.

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1For the efforts of James Harris, first Earl of Malmesbury, to negotiate a treaty with France in 1796, see King to H, November 30, 1796, note 3. The negotiations to which King is referring in the letter printed above began at Lille on July 7, 1797.

2John Adams’s message to the special session of Congress was delivered on May 16, 1797 (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 , VII, 54–59).

3The treaty of peace between France and the Venetian Republic, signed at Milan on May 16, 1797, abolished the Grand Council and hereditary aristocracy, established popular government, and provided for the occupation of Venice by a French garrison. In return, the Venetians agreed to provide the French with six million livres tournois, half in cash and half in the form of supplies (Martens, Recûeil description begins Georg Friedrich von Martens, Recûeil des principaux Traités d’Alliance, de Paix, de Trêve, de Neutralité, de Commerce, de Limites, d’Echange etc. conclus par les puissances de l’Europe tant entre elles qu’avec les puissances et etats dans d’autres parties du monde depuis 1761 jusqu’à présent, 2nd edition (Göttingen, 1817–1829), III, V, VI. description ends , VI, 391–93).

4On June 6, 1797, the Republic of Genoa concluded a convention with Napoleon and Guillaume Charles Faipoult de Maisoncelle, the French Minister at Genoa, dividing the Republic into communes and municipalities and establishing government by legislative and executive councils under the authority of a doge (Martens, Recûeil description begins Georg Friedrich von Martens, Recûeil des principaux Traités d’Alliance, de Paix, de Trêve, de Neutralité, de Commerce, de Limites, d’Echange etc. conclus par les puissances de l’Europe tant entre elles qu’avec les puissances et etats dans d’autres parties du monde depuis 1761 jusqu’à présent, 2nd edition (Göttingen, 1817–1829), III, V, VI. description ends , VI, 394–96).

5Portugal and Great Britain had been allies since the Treaty of London, September 26, 1793. This treaty provided that both parties should receive one another’s ships in their ports, while the Queen of Portugal agreed to exclude French warships and privateers from Portuguese ports for the duration of the war (Debrett, A Collection of State Papers description begins John Debrett, A Collection of State Papers, Relative to the War against France Now carrying on by Great-Britain and the several other European Powers, Containing Authentic Copies of Treaties, Conventions, Proclamations, Manifestoes, Declarations, Memorials, Remonstrances, Official Letters, Parliamentary Papers, London Gazette Accounts of the War, &c. &c. &c. Many of which have never before been published in England (London: Printed for J. Debrett, opposite Burlington House, Piccadilly, 1794–1797). description ends , I, 25–27). After August 19, 1796, when France signed a treaty of alliance with Spain, Portugal was placed in a position where it might become involved in a war between Spain and Great Britain. On September 17, 1796, the Queen of Portugal published a decree proclaiming Portugal’s neutrality and prohibiting in the event of an outbreak of war the entry into Portuguese ports of warships or privateers except in cases of emergency (Martens, Recûeil description begins Georg Friedrich von Martens, Recûeil des principaux Traités d’Alliance, de Paix, de Trêve, de Neutralité, de Commerce, de Limites, d’Echange etc. conclus par les puissances de l’Europe tant entre elles qu’avec les puissances et etats dans d’autres parties du monde depuis 1761 jusqu’à présent, 2nd edition (Göttingen, 1817–1829), III, V, VI. description ends , V, 609–10). The Portuguese ambassador at Paris, Antonio D’Araujo D’Azevedo, disregarding opposition from Great Britain, soon began negotiations for a treaty of peace and friendship with France. The treaty was signed on August 10, 1797 (Martens, Recûeil description begins Georg Friedrich von Martens, Recûeil des principaux Traités d’Alliance, de Paix, de Trêve, de Neutralité, de Commerce, de Limites, d’Echange etc. conclus par les puissances de l’Europe tant entre elles qu’avec les puissances et etats dans d’autres parties du monde depuis 1761 jusqu’à présent, 2nd edition (Göttingen, 1817–1829), III, V, VI. description ends , VI, 413–19).

6On March 25, 1793, Great Britain and Russia had signed a commercial convention renewing their treaty of 1766 (Martens, Recûeil description begins Georg Friedrich von Martens, Recûeil des principaux Traités d’Alliance, de Paix, de Trêve, de Neutralité, de Commerce, de Limites, d’Echange etc. conclus par les puissances de l’Europe tant entre elles qu’avec les puissances et etats dans d’autres parties du monde depuis 1761 jusqu’à présent, 2nd edition (Göttingen, 1817–1829), III, V, VI. description ends , V, 433–37). The two countries made a defensive alliance on February 18, 1795, and on February 21, 1797, they signed a treaty of navigation and commerce at St. Petersburg (Martens, Recûeil description begins Georg Friedrich von Martens, Recûeil des principaux Traités d’Alliance, de Paix, de Trêve, de Neutralité, de Commerce, de Limites, d’Echange etc. conclus par les puissances de l’Europe tant entre elles qu’avec les puissances et etats dans d’autres parties du monde depuis 1761 jusqu’à présent, 2nd edition (Göttingen, 1817–1829), III, V, VI. description ends , VI, 11–23, 357–67).

7Article 3 of the Treaty of Navigation and Commerce between Great Britain and Russia stated: “L’on est convenu à cet effet, que les sujets des hautes parties contractantes seront admis avec leurs vaisseaux, bâtimens et transports de terre, dans tous les ports, places et villes dont l’entrée est permise aux sujets de toute autre puissance, qu’ils pourront y faire le commerce et y demeurer; et les matelots, voyageurs et navires … seront accueillis et traites comme la nation la plus favorisée …” (Martens, Recûeil description begins Georg Friedrich von Martens, Recûeil des principaux Traités d’Alliance, de Paix, de Trêve, de Neutralité, de Commerce, de Limites, d’Echange etc. conclus par les puissances de l’Europe tant entre elles qu’avec les puissances et etats dans d’autres parties du monde depuis 1761 jusqu’à présent, 2nd edition (Göttingen, 1817–1829), III, V, VI. description ends , VI, 358–59).

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