Alexander Hamilton Papers
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From Alexander Hamilton to George Washington, [19 November 1796]

To George Washington

[New York, November 19, 1796]


I duly received your letter of the 12th. instant. My avocations have not permitted me sooner to comply with your desire. I have looked over the papers & suggested alterations & corrections;1 and I have also numbered the paragraphs I. II. III &c in the order in which it appears to me eligble they should stand in the Speech.2

I thought upon full reflection you could not avoid an allusion to your retreat in order to express your sense of the support of Congress—but that the simplest manner of doing it was to be preferred. A paragraph is offered accordingly.3

I believe the commencement of a Navy ought to be contemplated. Our fiscal concerns if Congress please can easily be rendered efficient. If not tis their fault & ought not to prevent any suggestion which the interest of the Country may require. The Paragraph in your letter respecting our Mediterranean Commerce may well be incorporated in this part of the communication.4

You will observe a paragraph I have framed contemplates a full future communication of our situation with France.5 At present it seems to me that this will best be effected in the following mode.

Let a full reply to Mr Adets6 last communication be made containing a particular review of our conduct & motives from the commencement of the Revolution. Let this be sent to Mr. Pinckney7 to be imparted to the Directory & let a copy of it with a short auxiliary statement of facts if necessary be sent to the House of Representatives. As Mr. Adet has suspended his functions8 I presume no reply can be made to him; but not having seen his paper I cannot judge.

The crisis is immensely important to the glory of the President & to the honor & interest of the Country. It is all important that the Reply to Adets last communication to whomsoever made should be managed with the utmost possible prudence & skill—so that it may be a solid justification—an inoffensive remonstrance—the expression of a dignified seriousness reluctant to quarrel but resolved not to be humbled. The subject excites the greatest anxiety.

I have the honor to be very respectfully & Affectly Sir   Your obed ser

A Hamilton

The President of the U States

ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.

1H is referring to suggestions for the President’s annual message to Congress submitted to Washington by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and Secretary of War James McHenry. These papers have not been found. See Washington to H, November 12, 1796.

2This is a reference to the President’s annual message to Congress on which Washington had asked for H’s help as early as August, 1796. See Washington to H, August 10, September 6, 1796, November 2, 12, 1796; H to Washington, September 4, 6, November 4, 10, 1796; “Draft of George Washington’s Eighth Annual Address to Congress,” November 10, 1796.

3This paragraph has not been found.

5This paragraph has not been found.

6This is a reference to Pierre Auguste Adet’s letter of November 15, 1796, to Pickering. See Oliver Wolcott, Jr., to H, November 17, 1796.

7Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, United States Minister Plenipotentiary to France.

8In his letter to Pickering of November 15, 1796, Adet stated: “The undersigned minister plenipotentiary … declares that the executive directory regards the treaty of commerce concluded with Great Britain as a violation of the treaty made with France in 1778, and equivalent to a treaty of alliance with Great Britain; and that, justly offended at the conduct which the American Government has held in this case, they have given him orders to suspend, from this moment, his ministerial functions with the Federal Government” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 582).

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