Alexander Hamilton Papers
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From Alexander Hamilton to Oliver Wolcott, Junior, 26 June 1795

To Oliver Wolcott, Junior

New York June 26, 1795

Dr Sir

I have direct information in confidence, that the Minister of France by a letter received yesterday has ordered a fast sailing vessel for France to be prepared at this port.1 No doubt this has connection with the Treaty with England. I presume with the reserves that decorum requires he is apprised of the contents of that Treaty.2 This ought at least to go so far as to satisfy him that there is nothing in it inimical to his Country; especially as I suppose it to have been adopted. It is well to guard our peace on all sides as far as shall consist with dignity.

Indeed I am of opinion on the whole that all further mystery at present is unnecessary & ought to be waved for the satisfaction of the public mind. I do not think any samples of diplomatic decorum of weight enough to stand in the way.

Yrs

A Hamilton

Oliver Wolcott Esq

ALS, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford; copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1On June 13, 1795, Pierre Auguste Adet had arrived in Philadelphia to succeed Jean Antoine Joseph Fauchet as French Minister to the United States. On June 28, 1795, in a letter to the Committee of Public Safety, Adet, after complaining about the failure of the French government to keep his predecessors informed, wrote: “… je me suis concerté avec le Consul général [Antoine René Charles Mathurin de La Forest]; il doit acheter, ou frêter deux petits bâtimens qui sous pavilion Américain avec un Capitaine et un équipage Américain pourront aller successivement en France vous porter mes dépêches et me rapporter vos ordres” (Turner, “Correspondence of French Ministers,” description begins Frederick J. Turner, ed., “Correspondence of the French Ministers to the United States, 1791–1797,” Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1903 (Washington, 1904), II. description ends 740).

2The Jay Treaty, which John Jay and Lord Grenville had signed on November 19, 1794, did not reach Philadelphia until March 7, 1795. See Jay to H, November 19, 1794, note 1. George Washington and Edmund Randolph did not reveal its contents to anyone until it had been submitted to the special session of the Senate on June 8, 1795. See Robert Troup to H, May 21, 1795, note 9. On June 8, when the Senate convened, “The following message was received from the President of the United States:

“Gentlemen of the Senate:

“In pursuance of my nomination of John Jay as Envoy Extraordinary to His Britannic Majesty, on the 16th day of April, 1794, and of the advice and consent of the Senate thereto, on the 19th, a negotiation was opened in London. On the 7th of March, 1795, the Treaty resulting therefrom was delivered to the Secretary of State. I now transmit to the Senate that Treaty, and other documents connected with it. They will, therefore, in their wisdom, decide whether they will advise and consent that the said Treaty be made between the United States and His Britannic Majesty.

G. Washington.

“United States, June 8, 1795.

“The Message, Treaty, and other documents referred to in the Message, were, in part, read, and the further reading thereof postponed.

Ordered, That the Senators be under an injunction of secrecy on the communications this day received from the President of the United States, until the further order of the Senate.

Ordered, That the Secretary procure, printed under an injunction of secrecy, thirty-one copies only, of the Treaty referred to in the Message of the President of the United States, of this day, for the use of the Senate.” (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , IV, 854–55.)

After adopting a resolution on June 24 consenting to the treaty, the Senate on June 26, the day on which it adjourned, “Resolved, That the injunction of secrecy concerning the communications made by the President of the United States, on the 8th of June, instant, be rescinded; but that it be, nevertheless, enjoined upon the Senators not to authorize or allow any copy of the said communication, or of any article thereof” (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , IV, 863, 867).

Following the adjournment of the Senate, Washington and Randolph agreed that the full treaty should be published in The Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser, July 1, 1795 (Randolph, Vindication description begins [Edmund Randolph], A Vindication of Mr. Randolph’s Resignation (Philadelphia: Printed by Samuel H. Smith, No. 118, Chesnut Street, 1795). description ends , 28–29). The text of the Jay Treaty appeared in The Philadelphia Gazette on that date, and it included the conditional approval of the Senate, dated June 24, 1795. But Adet had seen the treaty before July 1, for on July 6, 1795, Randolph wrote to Rufus King: “… This day [July 1] was named, because I could not sooner recover the only copy in my powers which I had put into the hands of Mr. Adet, upon his expressing some vague inquietudes” (King, The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King description begins Charles R. King, The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King (New York, 1894–1900). description ends , II, 15). See also Randolph to Adet, July 6, 1795 (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 8, December 6, 1794–October 12, 1795, National Archives). It seems likely that Randolph gave his copy of the treaty to Adet on June 29, for in a memorandum entitled “Substance of a conversation between mr. Adet … and E. Randolph … at the office of the latter, June 29 1795 9 oclock a.m.,” which he sent to Washington on the same day (AL, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, 1790–1799, National Archives), Randolph wrote: “Mr. Adet having yesterday requested by letter an interview with E. Randolph to day, he (mr. Adet) came at the appointed hour, and commenced his conversation by saying, that his object was to communicate some inquietudes upon our late treaty with Great Britain …” (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 8, December 6, 1794–October 12, 1795, National Archives). George Hammond, British Minister to the United States, had also obtained a copy of the treaty; in a conversation with Randolph on June 29, he told the Secretary of State that “he had seen a copy, which a member of the Senate had brought to him” (“Substance of a conversation between mr. Hammond … and E. Randolph …, June 29 1795 11 oclock am.” [LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 8, December 6, 1794–October 12, 1795, National Archives]).

Under the circumstances it is not surprising that Randolph and Washington’s plan for publishing the treaty on July 1 should be upset. On June 29 the [Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser printed an abstract of the treaty which had been provided by “A Citizen.” In a letter to the Committee of Public Safety, dated July 3, 1795, Adet wrote: “J’ai fait parvenir au petit fils de Franklin [Benjamin Franklin Bache] qui rédige L’Aurore Journal Patriote, un Extraite du Traité, sans qu’il put se douter qu’il vint de moi” (Turner, “Correspondence of French Ministers,” description begins Frederick J. Turner, ed., “Correspondence of the French Ministers to the United States, 1791–1797,” Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1903 (Washington, 1904), II. description ends 742).

On July 1, 1795, Bache advertised a pamphlet containing the entire treaty, the text of which had been supplied by Senator Stevens T. Mason, a Virginia Republican. The pamphlet was entitled: (Authentic.) Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, Between His Britannick Majesty, and the United States of America. By Their President, With the Advice and Consent of Their Senate (Philadelphia, 1795). The text of the treaty was prefaced by a copy of a letter from Mason to Bache, dated June 29, 1795, explaining Mason’s reasons for releasing the treaty. Mason’s letter reads: “I have seen in your paper of this date an abstract of the late Treaty between the United States aand Great Britain, which tho’ not perfectly correct is nearly so.

“As this publication will probably excite a newspaper discussion, it is of importance that the People should possess a full and accurate knowledge of the subject to which their attention may be drawn, and which I think has already been improperly withheld from them. Lest therefore the Treaty should be presumed more favourable, or represented to be less so than it really is, I send you herewith a genuine copy, which you may correct your statement by, or make such other use of as you please, for the purpose of giving to the citizens of America full information respecting this momentous business.”

On July 3, 1795, Bache advertised a second edition of the pamphlet, with the same title, and the text was again prefaced by Mason’s letter. This edition of the pamphlet, however, was published “With an addition of two important motions made during the discussion of the question on Ratification by Messrs. Burr and Tazewell.” Aaron Burr was United States Senator from New York; Henry Tazewell was United States Senator from Virginia.

Burr’s motion of June 22, 1795, reads: “That the further consideration of the Treaty concluded at London the 19th of November 1794, be postponed, and that it be recommended to the President of the United States to proceed without delay, to further friendly negociations with his Britannic Majesty, in order to effect alterations in the said Treaty, in the following particulars:

“That the 9th, 10th, and 24th Articles, and so much of the 25th as relates to the shelter or refuge to be given to the armed vessels of States or Sovereigns at war with either party, be expunged.

“2d. Art. That no privilege or right be allowed to the settlers or traders mentioned in the 2d Article, other than those which are secured to them by the Treaty of 17[8]3, and existing laws.

“3d. Art. That the 3d Article be expunged, or, so modified that the citizens of the United States may have the use of all rivers, ports and places within the territories of his Britannic majesty in North America, in the same manner as his subjects may have those of the United States.

“6th Art. That the value of the Negroes and other property, carried away contrary to the 7th article of the treaty of 1783, and the loss and damage sustained by the United States by the detention of the posts, be paid for by the British government; the amount to be ascertained by the commissioners who may be appointed to liquidate the claims of the British creditors.

“12th Art. That what relates to the West India trade and the provisos and conditions thereof in the 12th article, be expunged, or be rendered much more favourable to the United States and without any restraint on the exportation in vessels of the United States, or any articles, not the growth, produce or manufacture of the said Islands of his Britannic majesty.

“15th Art. That no clause be admitted which may restrain the United States from reciprocating benefits by discriminating between foreign nations in their commercial arrangements, or prevent them from encreasing the tonnage, or other duties on British vessels, on terms of reciprocity, or in a stipulated ratio.

“21st Art. That the subjects or citizens of either party, be not restrained from accepting commissions in the army or navy of any foreign power.” (Authentic) Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, Between His Britannick Majesty, and the United States of America. By Their President, With the Advice and Consent of Their Senate With an addition of two important motions made during the discussion of the question of Ratification by Messrs. Burr and Tazewell [Philadelphia, 1795], 25–26.)

Tazewell’s motion of June 24, 1795, printed in the same pamphlet, reads: “That the President of the United States be informed, that the Senate will not consent to the ratification of the treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation, between the United States and his Britannic Majesty, concluded at London on the 19th November 1794, for the reasons following—

“1. Because so much of the treaty as was intended to terminate the complaints, flowing from the inexecution of the treaty of 1783, contains stipulations that were not rightfully or justly requireable, of the United States, and which are, both impolitic and injurious to their interest; and because the treaty hath not secured that satisfaction from the British government, for the removal of negroes, in violation of the treaty of 1783, to which the citizens of the United States were justly entitled.

“2. Because the rights of the individual States are by the 9th article of the treaty, unconstitutionally invaded.

“3. Because however impolitic or unjust it may generally be, to exercise the power prohibited by the 10th article, yet it rests on legislative discretion and ought not to be prohibited by treaty.

“4. Because so much of the treaty, as relates to commercial arrangements between the parties, wants that reciprocity, upon which alone, such like arrangements ought to be founded, and will operate ruinously to the American commerce and navigation.

“5. Because the Treaty prevents the United States from the exercise of that controul over their commerce and navigation, as connected with other nations, which might better the condition of their intercourse with friendly nations.

“6. Because the Treaty asserts a power in the President and Senate, to control and even annihilate the constitutional right of the Congress of the United States over their commercial intercourse with foreign nations.

“7. Because if the construction of this treaty should not produce an infraction of the Treaties now subsisting between the United States and their allies it is calculated to excite sensations which may not operate beneficially to the United States.

“Notwithstanding the Senate will not consent to the ratification of this Treaty, they advise the President of the United States to continue his endeavors by friendly discussion with his Britannic majesty to adjust all the real causes of complaint between the two nations.” ([Authentic] Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, 26–27.) Tazewell’s motion is printed in Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , IV, 861–62, with no attribution of its authorship. See also Tazewell to James Monroe, June 27, 1795, in which Tazewell prefaces a copy of his resolution by stating: “Mr. Burr’s motion having been lost, & nothing else remaining for the Senate to vote on than Mr. [Rufus] King’s Resolution, Mr. Tazewell moved, seconded by Mr [John] Langdon that in lieu of Mr King’s resolution the following be adopted …” (ALS, James Monroe Papers, Library of Congress).

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