Alexander Hamilton Papers
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Conversation with George Hammond, [2 April–17 May 1793]

Conversation with George Hammond1

[Philadelphia, April 2–May 17, 1793]

Since my last2 I have had several communications with Mr. Hamilton on the present critical state of affairs, from which I infer that he continues stedfast in his adherence to the opinions I have uniformly ascribed to him. In one of our most recent conversations I entered pretty largely into the exposition of those principles which your Lordship has been pleased to state to me in your last dispatch, as those that will actuate the conduct of his Majesty’s government in regard to the commerce carried on by neutral vessels.3 In the justice of these principles Mr. Hamilton perfectly coincided, and assured me that he would be responsible for the concurrence of all the members of this administration in the admission of their propriety4 to the fullest extent.

D, PRO: F.O. description begins Transcripts or photostats from the Public Record Office of Great Britain deposited in the Library of Congress. description ends , Series 5, Vol. 1, Library of Congress.

1This conversation has been taken from Hammond to Lord Grenville, May 17, 1793, Dispatch No. 14.

2Since Hammond’s Dispatch No. 13 to Grenville is also dated May 17, 1793, presumably the “last” dispatch refers to Dispatch No. 12, April 2, 1793 (copy, MS Division, New York Public Library).

3On March 12, 1793, Grenvile had written to Hammond:

“I have great reason to believe, that one principal Object of Mons. [Edmond Charles] Genet’s Mission is to procure a Supply of Corn and Provisions from the States of America and that for this Purpose he has been instructed to open a Negotiation with the American Government for liquidating the Payment of their loan to France by transmitting to the Ports of that Country a Supply of Corn and Provisions equal to the amount of the Outstanding Debt. It will therefore be proper for You to use every means in your power to ascertain whether any such Negotiation is going forward. Should you be able to discover that such a Proposal has been made it would be of the utmost Importance to inform me as early as possible, of the particulars of it. If in the result of any such Negotiation, Provisions and Grain should be actually shipped on board American Vessels, on the account of the French Government, they would evidently be French Property, and, as such, liable to Capture.

“It is indeed necessary to state on this occasion that the Principle of free Ships making free Goods, is one which never has been recognized by this Country and that it undoubtedly will not be allowed in the present case.…

“With respect even to American Property, bona fide such and which is carried to French Ports, on board American Vessels, it must be observed, that the Exemption from Capture does not extend to any of the Articles comprized under the Description of Contrebande de Guerre, and which are of such a Nature as to enable the Enemies of this Country to carry on the War against Us.…

“Another Principle to be attended to on this Occasion, is that (universally recognized) which prevents the carrying any Goods, tho’ clearly Neutral Property and innocent in their Nature, to such Parts of an Enemy’s Dominions as are besieged or blocked up. And it is the more necessary that You should explain this Point, and cause it to be generally understood, because of the very great Probability which there is, that, at no very great distance, this Mode of preventing the French from receiving Supplies of any Sort, from several of their Ports, will be resorted to. And it is therefore extremely likely that, even if such Articles should, bona fide, be shipped by American Merchants in Voyages of Speculation to those Ports, they may on their arrival in Europe be precluded from entering into those Ports by the Circumstances of their being blocked by His Majesty’s Vessels.…” (Bernard Mayo, ed., “Instructions to the British Ministers to the United States, 1791–1812,” Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1936 (Washington, 1941), III, 37–39.)

4In MS this word reads “property.”

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