Alexander Hamilton Papers
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To Alexander Hamilton from Oliver Wolcott, Junior, 18 May 1798

From Oliver Wolcott, Junior

Phila. May 18. 1798

Dr. Sir (Private)

You may render great service by corresponding occasionally with your acquaintances in Congress, prompting them to vigorous measures, & dispelling whims & hysterics. Mr. Lawrence & Mr. Bingham have frequently created much embarrassment—The former is now firm—the latter troublesome1—both want stimulants occasionally. No person here can say anything to them with advantage.

Congress appears to be but little better than before the publication of the dispatches.2 All their measures are feeble and qualified with some proviso, or limitation, which shows that they are not in earnest.

Mr. Cabot will not accept the naval Department3 & I almost despair of obtaining a tolerably fit character. The purchase, building & providing of the Ships4 falls upon me, & you know that my other duties are enough to employ a mind more active & vigorous than I possess. To diminish the care as much as possible I must employ efficient agents to whom much must be confided. John Blagge5 does not appear to answer this description. Colo. Stevens6 wishes to be employed—but he certainly has not all the requisite qualifications. Will you be so good as to turn the thing in your mind, & mention a number of the most suitable characters.

We hear nothing from the Envoys, I fear that their delay will ruin our Affairs. Their continuance in France7 furnishes the only plausible argument for inaction.

I am Dr. Sir yours

Oliv Wolcott.

Alexander Hamilton Esq.

ADfS, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford; LC, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.

1John Laurance and William Bingham.

On April 9, 1798, in a letter describing the views of various members of Congress, Theodore Sedgwick wrote to Rufus King: “Lawrence is as you knew him so-so” (King, The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King description begins Charles R. King, ed., The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King (New York, 1894–1900). description ends , II, 311). Bingham was “troublesome” on at least two occasions. On April 9, 1798, he deserted the Federalists to vote in the Senate against the printing of the papers relating to the negotiations in the XYZ affair (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, 538), and on April 24, 1798, he joined the opposition in the voting on amendments to “An act to provide an additional armament for the further protection of the trade of the United States; and for other purposes” (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, 547).

2For the decision of Congress to print the dispatches from the United States envoys to France concerning the XYZ affair, 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 , VII, 536–37; VIII, 1377–80. See also Timothy Pickering to H, April 9, 1798, note 1.

3For the appointment of Benjamin Stoddert to be Secretary of the Navy, see James McHenry to H, May 12, 1798, note 3.

4Wolcott is referring to “An Act to provide an additional Armament for the further protection of the trade of the United States; and for other purposes” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 552 [April 27, 1798]) and “An Act to authorize the President of the United States to cause to be purchased, or built, a number of small vessels to be equipped as gallies, or otherwise” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 556 [May 4, 1798]).

5Blagge, a New York City businessman, was a director of the New-York Insurance Company. In 1794 Henry Knox had appointed him United States naval agent at New York City. See Knox to H, June 25, 1794.

6Ebenezer Stevens, New York merchant and director of the New-York Insurance Company, served throughout the American Revolution and at the end of the war held the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1794 the New York legislature had named him to a seven-man committee in charge of “repairing or erecting fortifications at or near the city and port of New-York” (“An Act authorizing the erecting of Fortifications within this State” [New York Laws, 17th Sess., Ch. XLI (March 26, 1794)]). In 1794 Stevens was also the Federal agent in charge of construction of the fortifications for New York City. See Henry Knox to H, March 29, 1794, note 5; Stevens to H, December 1, 1794.

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