Alexander Hamilton Papers
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To Alexander Hamilton from Timothy Pickering, 18 June 1799

From Timothy Pickering1

Department of State
Philada June 18th 1799

Dear Sir,

Mr. Rozier presented yesterday, your letter of the 13th;2 and, agreeably to my appointment, he called this morning and exhibited his cypher, and comparing with it his cyphered letters to Mr. Talleyrand which were taken in the Astrea and transmitted to me from Gibralter, I found in every passage examined, an exact correspondence with those letters written in words, copies whereof he gave me to read. Their contents justify his assurances to you, that they exhibited nothing which could be construed into a design to injure the United States. The opinions he expressed of the state of parties and of the then recent elections to Congress, are such as might be expected from a French agent to his government, willing to please it with a representation of American affairs in relation to France as favourable to the latter as the information to be derived from French partisans, in news-papers, letters and conversations, would warrant; but the whole without any symptoms of acrimony or ill-will. I took the occasion to remark, That the French Government was encouraged to persevere in its hostile and pernicious designs against the United States by representations importing that they had numerous friends in this country, and perhaps a majority in the ensuing Congress, or if not, that the federal majority would be feeble, and consequently little efficient: adding that he could obtain from you more correct information.

I am with great respect &c

Timothy Pickering.

LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 11, June 30, 1798–June 29, 1799, National Archives; copy, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.

1For background to this letter, see H to Pickering, April 4, 1799.

On April 12, 1799, Pickering wrote to Jean Antoine Bernard Rozier: “I have received your letter of the 3d. instant; but suspended an answer until I should receive the letters found on board the ship Astrea, and sent to America by the American Consul at Gibraltar [John Gavino]. The letters are now come to hand. Among them are two from you to the Minister of Foreign Relations, numbered 1 & 2 dated the 6th. Brumaire & 2d Frimaire, 7th. year of the French era, with a postscript to the last dated 3d. Frimaire. As a proof that these letters contain nothing contrary to the interests of the United States, you offer to let me know their contents, by communicating your cypher to some person at New York, whom I shall judge worthy of that confidence. The length of the letters will render the decyphering a work of more labour than I wish to give to any gentleman there; and propose, therefore, that you should transmit a copy of your cypher to me. I trust you will not think this an improper step: because no French citizen who wishes to enjoy here the rights of hospitality, can be entitled to them while he maintains a secret correspondence with the French Government; and it is for a secret correspondence only that a cypher can be wanted.

“I am led, by the frankness of your offer and the favourable opinion of General Hamilton to assure you of my respect.” (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 11, June 30, 1798–June 29, 1799, National Archives.)

2Letter not found.

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