Alexander Hamilton Papers
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From Alexander Hamilton to Jedediah Huntington, 12 November 1801

To Jedediah Huntington1

New York November
12: 1801

Dr. Sir

I take the liberty to ask the favour of your aid in respect to the inclosed notice from the Supreme Court of the UStates in the affair of the Schooner Peggy.2 It is to be delivered to the Agents of the Ship Trumball, who are Messieurs Howland and Allen3 and upon a copy of it an affidavit must be made before the District Judge of the UStates (who I am told resides at New London) that the original notice was served upon them at such a time and place according to the fact. You will much oblige me by having this done with care & by transmitting me without delay by post the Affidavit.

I think my memory does not disserve me as to the persons but I presume by the additional description of Agents of the Ship Trumball, you will easily be led to the real persons in case of any mistake. You will probably recollect that the Ship Trumball (Frigate) brought the Schooner Peggy a French Vessel as a prize into the Port of New London where she was libelled and tried before Judge Law.

I embrace with pleasure this occasion of renewing to you the assurances of an old friendship which no revolutions of times & events can alter. Very truly

Yr. Obed ser

A Hamilton

E Huntington Esq4

ALS, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

1Jedediah Huntington, a veteran of the American Revolution with the rank of brigadier general, was collector of customs at New London, Connecticut, from 1789 to 1818.

2H is referring to the case of the United States v Schooner Peggy, Joseph Buisson, claimant, which involved the capture and condemnation of a French vessel during the undeclared war with France and the subsequent restoration of the vessel according to the provisions of the Convention of 1800 (Treaty of Môrtefontaine). On April 24, 1800, the U.S. Frigate Trumbull, under Captain David Jewett, which was sailing off the coast of Santo Domingo under orders from the President, captured the French schooner Peggy, Joseph Buisson master, which was sailing to France carrying official dispatches from General François Dominique Toussaint L’Ouverture (Naval Documents, Quasi-War, January, 1800–May, 1800 description begins Naval Documents Related to the Quasi-War Between the United States and France: Naval Operations from January 1800 to May 1800 (Washington, 1937). description ends , 233, 338, 489, 571; “An Act further to protect the Commerce of the United States” [1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, I (Boston, 1845). description ends 578–80 (July 9, 1798)]). On June 24, 1800, the Peggy was libelled in the District Court of Connecticut at New London, Judge Richard Law presiding. On June 25, 1800, Law ruled that the Peggy was not a lawful prize because she was only a trading vessel and was not an armed vessel according to the definition provided by the laws of the United States. The Government appealed the case to the United States Circuit Court for Connecticut in Hartford, where on September 23, 1800, Judge William Cushing, associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, reversed the decision of the lower court and ordered the schooner and her cargo condemned and the proceeds to be divided equally between the United States Government and the crew of the Trumbull (RG 21, Records of the United States Circuit Court for the District of Connecticut, September, 1800, term–April 2, 1801, term. Final Record Book, Vol. 2, 1796–1801, 263–81, 366–74, Archives Branch, Federal Archives and Record Center, Waltham, Massachusetts). On October 2, 1800, the defendant filed a writ of error with the Supreme Court of the United States. On December 21, 1801, after hearing two days of argument, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Circuit Court and ruled that the Peggy and her cargo be restored to Buisson, “but without costs” (RG 267, Records of the Supreme Court of the United States, Vol. A-D, February 1, 1790–August 4, 1828, National Archives). According to 1 Cranch description begins William Cranch, Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Supreme Court of the United States in August and December Term, 1801, and February Term, 1803 (Washington City: Published for John Conrad and Co., Philadelphia; M. and J. Conrad and Co., Baltimore; Rapine, Conrad and Co., Washington City; Somerville and Conrad, Petersburg [Va.]; and Bonsai, Conrad and Co., Norfolk, 1804). description ends , 50, one of the two points on which the decision rested was “Whether, by the sentence of condemnation by the circuit court, on the 23d of September, 1800, the schooner Peggy could be considered as definitively condemned, within the meaning of the 4th article of the convention with France, signed at Paris, on the 30th of September, 1800.…

“In this case the court is of opinion that the schooner Peggy is within the provisions of the treaty entered into with France, and ought to be restored.”

For Article IV of the Convention of 1800, see Oliver Ellsworth to H, October 16, 1800, note 18.

No evidence has been found that H acted as counsel for Buisson.

3Joseph Howland and Robert Allyn were the naval agents at New London, Connecticut.

4H meant to write “J Huntington,” for he addressed this letter to “General Huntington Collector New London Connecticut.” Ebenezer Huntington, a veteran of the American Revolution who became a brigadier general during the undeclared war with France, was never a collector of customs, and he lived in Norwich, Connecticut, not New London.

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