Alexander Hamilton Papers
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From Alexander Hamilton to Oliver Wolcott, Junior, [2 June 1798]

To Oliver Wolcott, Junior

[New York, June 2, 1798]

My Dear Sir

I received from you not long since a letter1 on the subject of a fit person for naval Agent which in the hurry of my business I forgot. I think you mentioned in it for consideration Col Stevens & Mr. Blagg.

Col Stevens is an active man not wanting in intelligence2 who has latterly been employed in navigation & probably has some relative ideas. He is however pretty largely in other business & perhaps would make this too secondary an object. Besides this he has till lately been connected in French Trade & generally unfriendly to our politics; though he come forward now explicitly on the right side & I believe is in earnest. But the employment of a man of this description in preference to staunch friends is apt to occasion criticism & one is not always certain of such a person.

Blagge is a very good but I fear not a very active3 man.

Some other characters have occured to me—

James Watson4 whom you know is a man of understanding & leisure. He has taken pretty good care of his own affairs and I should think competent. I must however say that he has latterly had the air5 to me of being rather disposed to inactivity.

There is a Mr. George Barnewall whom I should prefer to either of these if it were not for his situation in some respects. He has been bred a sailor is well acquainted with all that appertains to vessels—has done considerable business as a Merchant & is of very good reputation for integrity. But he was an officer in the British Navy last War & his appointment to a money getting place would be dissatisfactory to many & be represented as an evidence of British inclination in The Governt. This however would not prevent me from appointing him to the command of one of our sloops of War where I think he would be an acquisition & which being considered more as an employt. of danger than profit would attract less criticism.6

Anthony Rutgers.7 This man is well acquainted with Shipping business—is indefatigable in his pursuits—honest well principled & a man of property. But he is 54 years old & garrulous. He would do the business well upon a small scale but would I imagine be incompetent to an extensive Scene.

Mr. Charles Smith. A Merchant Sailor—very competent industrious attentive honest—a man of property & respectability. He is advanced in life but of considerable activity & vigor of body.

John B Church, my brother in law, a man of fortune & integrity—of strong mind, very exact very active & very much a man of business. He is about fifty but of uncommon strength of constitution. I have no reason to believe the employment would be acceptable to him but that he has little to do his time hangs heavy on his hands—& he has a son8 grown up whom he wants to employ. You know he was Wadsworth’s9 associate in the supply of the French & our Army—in which he gave full proofs of ability and efficiency. If he should be thought of it should come by way of inquiry of me from you & put upon the footing that he is understood to be unengaged in business and to have a son grown up whom he might wish to employ. You must also state the objects & the compensation.

Of the men I have mentioned except Mr Church I should upon the whole prefer Mr. Smith if he would accept. Say nothing to any body of this hint about Mr Church. I am not sure that he would be pleased with my doing what I have done.

Yrs. truly

A Hamilton

O Wolcot Esq

ALS, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.

2H placed an asterisk at this point and in the margin wrote: “Mr. W Constable who is a good Judge says there has appeared to him some confusion in his business arrangements.” William Constable was a New York City merchant.

3At this point H placed an asterisk and in the margin of the last page of this letter wrote: “NB This Gentleman has some propensity to Gaming, but it is in perfect command & now confined to a party at Bragg once a week with Low Clarkeson Le Roy Harrison & one or two others of similar description.” Brag was a card game resembling poker. Nicholas Low, Matthew Clarkson, and Herman LeRoy were New York City merchants. Richard Harison was United States attorney for the District of New York.

4Watson was a New York City attorney and merchant. A veteran of the American Revolution, he had been a member of the New York Assembly in 1791 and from 1794 to 1796. He had been speaker of the Assembly in 1794. He was a member of the state Senate from 1796 to 1798, and he entered the United States Senate on August 17, 1798, having been elected to replace William North. For North’s appointment to the Senate to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of John Sloss Hobart, see the first letter from John Jay to H, April 19, 1798, note 1.

5In MS, “aid.”

6At this point H wrote and then crossed out: “Isaac Bronson deserves attention. He is a sensible active man—is not I believe much occupied & as far as I know has a fair character.”

7Rutgers was a New York City merchant and brewer. He was the son of Elizabeth Rutgers, plaintiff in the case of Rutgers v Waddington. See H to Thomas Jefferson, April 19, 1792. See also Goebel, Law Practice description begins Julius Goebel, Jr., ed., The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton: Documents and Commentary (New York and London, 1964– ). description ends , I, 282–419.

8Philip Church, who later became H’s aide-de-camp.

9Jeremiah Wadsworth.

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