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To Alexander Hamilton from William Bradford, 2 July 1795

From William Bradford

Philada. July 2d. 1795.

My dear Sir

Your letter of last month1 should not have remained so long unanswered had I not been suddenly carried off to Easton by the allurement of a stout fee,2 and detained on my return, by the funeral of Secr Stockton,3 till the day before yesterday. I took care, however, before my departure, to bring the situation of La Fayette into the President’s view and submitted to him the propriety of the step you suggested for his relief.4 The president said that no one could be more anxious than himself to succour him and that he would consider of the measure proposed. As the measures to be taken with regard to the Treaty are not yet decided on, I have not since my return brought up the subject again: but it shall not be forgotten.

I find that the mode of ratification you hinted as the proper one, has been advised: yet the resolve of the Senate is so equivocally expressed that it may mean either, that the President shall now make a conditional ratification: or that he shall ratify it hereafter, if the British King shall consent to insert in the treaty the proposed article.5 Which of these do you take to [be] their meaning! On either construction, I hold this act to be the final act of the Senate & that it is not necessary to submit to them the new article after it shall have been agreed to on the other side of the water.

You have no doubt seen the indecent publication of the Treaty by Mr. Senator Mason,6 together with Burr’s and Tazewell’s motions.7 I am told by Mr Randolph that Tazewell who is still in town disavows any abettment in this affair & even censures the publications. I am afraid these publications will have some mischievous effects: and endeavors are pretty industriously used to excite disgusts with the Treaty. Swanwick8 & Co. declare that all the advantages are on the side of G.B. & it is given out, that Mr Jay is to be burnt in effigy on the 4th. July. This I suppose is done to feel the pulse of the City. Mr Adet after expressing to Mr R. his “disquietudes”9 on the occasion, has, I hear, just sent him a milk-and-water thing10 in which he states objections so feeble & wrongheaded that he could not have done worse were he playing booty with us. The Spanish Minister also affects alarm about the Missisippi-article, & has formally demanded of the Secy. of State whether that article as published be genuine.11 He is answered in the affirmative—but no memorial yet!12

Your squabbles in New York have taken our Chief Justice from us13—ought you not to find us another? I am afraid that department “as it relates neither to War, finance nor Negociation,” has no charms for you: & yet when one considers how immensely important it is, where they have the power of paralizing the measures of the government by declaring a law unconstitutional, it is not to be trusted to men who are to be scared by popular clamor or warped by feeble-minded prejudices. I wish to heavon you would permit me to name you: If not, what think you of Mr. Randolph?

You know the issue of the Argument on the Carriage-Tax-suit brought in Virginia.14 The Judges differed in opinion: but for the sake of a decision in the Sup. Court next august, the cause is put in a situation to be brought up by a writ of Error.15 I consider the question as the greatest one that ever came before that Court; & it is of the last importance not only that the act should be supported, but supported by the unanimous opinion of the Judges and on grounds that will bear the public inspection. This is more necessary because J. Taylor16 who argued the cause below intends to publish the speech he delivered on that occasion17 & which I am told is calculated to do mischief. I have therefore requested permission of the President for leave to call in auxiliary counsel & to invite you to join me in defence of the act. He thinks the measure very proper—and, you know, we will all be rejoiced to see you. This too will be a proper occasion for you to make your debut in the Supreme Court, and it is a cause in which the compensation shall be such as you approve of. No one understands the subject so well as yourself & as a complete report of the case may be necessary to expel the poison of Taylor’s publication, I wish the subject should be thoroughly discussed. Independent of these motives—ought you not to have a little parental concern on this occasion, & to take care that no injustice be done to your own begettings?18 May I therefore certify to the Secretary of the Treasury that you will be of counsel with the U.S. on the argument of the cause? An early answer will oblige me.

It will always give me pleasure to hear from you: & I will endeavor to repay you with what you may consider “as a smack of the Whip.” Yet I hear that you have renounced every thing but your profession—that you will not even pick up money when it lies at your feet, unless it comes in the form of a fee! But it is in vain to kick against the pricks. You were made for a Statesman, & politics will never be out of your head.

Adieu my dear sir—present my regards to Mrs Hamilton & believe me to be with great sincerity

Your friend & hum sert.

W. Bradford

A. Hamilton Esq.

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

2“… The Attorney General [in the seventeen-nineties] was thought of … as the legal adviser of the President and department heads, and as an agent to whom Congress might turn for information and legal advice. But the government was merely one of his clients, paying an annual retainer of $1,500, one half of the salary assigned to heads of departments. In accordance with the custom of that time, the Attorney General was not only allowed, but expected to pursue his private legal work” (Leonard D. White, The Federalists: A Study in Administrative History [New York, 1948], 164).

3Samuel Witham Stockton, secretary of the state of New Jersey, died on June 26, 1795.

5For the Senate’s action on the Jay Treaty, see H to Rufus King, June 11, 1795, notes 2 and 3.

6For the circumstances under which the Jay Treaty was published from a copy made available by Senator Stevens T. Mason of Virginia, see H to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., June 26, 1795, note 2.

8John Swanwick was prominent in Philadelphia as a member of the governing board of the Republican party and provider of most of the party’s funds. He was a member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania from 1795 to 1798; he resigned before the expiration of his second term. On July 23, 1795, Swanwick participated in a demonstration of the “citizens of Philadelphia” against the Jay Treaty, and he was a member of the committee “to prepare and report a memorial, addressed to the President of the United States, respectfully but forcibly conveying the sentiments of the City of Philadelphia, on this important occasion” ([Philadelphia] Gazette of the United States, July 24, 1795).

9See “Substance of a conversation between mr. Adet … and E. Randolph … at the office of the latter, June 29 1795 9 oclock a.m.” (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 8, December 6, 1794–October 12, 1795, National Archives), and H to Wolcott, June 26, 1795, note 2.

10Adet to Randolph, June 30, 1795 (Correspondence of the French Ministers with the United States Government description begins Correspondence of the French Ministers, Joseph Fauchet and P. Adet; with the United States Government during the Years 1794–1796 (n.p., 1797?). description ends , part I, 55).

11Josef de Jaudenes’s letter to Randolph, which was dated June 30, 1795, has not been found. In his letter to Randolph, Jaudenes wrote concerning the following part of Article 3 of the Jay Treaty: “… The River Mississippi, shall however, according to the Treaty of Peace be entirely open to both Parties; And it is further agreed, That all the ports and places on its Eastern side, to whichsoever of the parties belonging, may freely be resorted to, and used by both parties, in as ample a manner as any of the Atlantic Ports or Places of the United States, or any of the Ports or Places of His Majesty in Great Britain” (Miller, Treaties, II description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (Washington, 1931), II. description ends , 247).

12On July 1, 1795, Randolph wrote to Jaudenes: “I did not receive your Letter of yesterday until this morning. I now have the honor of inclosing to you that passage of the 3d. article of the Treaty with Great Britain which is the subject of your inquiry” (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 8, December 6, 1794—October 12, 1795, National Archives).

13Jay, who had returned to New York from his mission to London on May 28, 1795, was officially elected governor of New York on June 5, 1795. He resigned as Chief Justice of the United States on June 29, 1795. See Edward Jones to H, March 30, 1795, note 10.

15The United States Circuit Court for the District of Virginia heard the case of Hylton v United States on June 2, 1795. James Wilson, associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, decided for the constitutionality of the carriage tax; Cyrus Griffin, United States judge for the District of Virginia, decided against its constitutionality. Judgment was entered against Hylton for two thousand dollars, to be discharged by a payment of sixteen dollars. A writ of error proceeding took the case to the Supreme Court of the United States in February–March, 1796 (3 MS Record Book 524, under the date of June 2, 1795, United States Circuit Court for the District of Virginia, Virginia State Library, Richmond).

16John Taylor of Caroline, the famous theorist of Jeffersonian agrarianism, was a Virginia planter and lawyer. A veteran of the American Revolution, he served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1779 to 1785 and was a member of the United States Senate from 1792 to 1794.

17An Argument respecting the Constitutionality of the Carriage Tax; which subject was discussed at Richmond, in Virginia, in May, 1795. By John Taylor (Richmond, 1795).

18As early as 1787 H, as a member of the New York Assembly, had proposed a tax on carriages. See “New York Assembly. An Act for Raising Certain Yearly Taxes Within This State,” February 9, 1787. For H’s advocacy of a Federal tax on carriages, see “Report on the Redemption of the Public Debt,” November 30, 1792. No evidence has been found, however, as Bradford appears to suggest, that H was the author of the statute establishing the tax on carriages.

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