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From Alexander Hamilton to George Washington, [14 June 1794]

To George Washington

[Philadelphia, June 14, 1794]

The Secretary of the Treasury presents his respects to the President. He had thought that the appointment of a Supervisor for Pennsylvania1 might without inconvenience be deferred ’till the return of the President,2 & therefore deferred mentioning it. But on more particular reflection as a new revenue year commences with the first of July, he believes it would be of use to accelerate the appointment.

The persons who have more particularly occurred to the enquiries of the Secretary (and his enquiries have been particular & extensive) are General Hand,3 now an Inspector, Colo Henry Miller4 of York County, Charles Biddle5 of this City, Colo. Francis Nichols,6 M. Clarkson7 mayor & Major Lenox.8

General Hand from situation wou’d claim particular consideration. But the Secretary with much esteem for that Gentleman on all personal accounts is obliged in duty to say that he has been so materially defective in the execution of his present office as to forbid an assurance that the superior one would be executed by him with due attention & exertion. And it is of vast consequence to the revenue & to the Government that no mistake should be committed in the present choice.

Of the persons named, Colo. Miller, all circumstances considered, has the judgment of the Secretary in his favour. All agree that he is a man of good character of friendly dispositions to the Government & Laws of the UStates—of industry, exertion, address & distinguished firmness—of adequate, tho’ not superior ability, and most likely of any man on whom equal dependence can be placed, to have weight in the most refractory scene of this State. He is also a man of decent property unembarrassed. Among those who warmly recommend him is Mr. Ross,9 Senator of this State, who lives in one of the most western Counties.

Mr. Biddle has many things in his favor. Perhaps he has more ability than any of the persons named, and no doubts are entertained of his firmness, activity or attention. His connections and influence are principally among the malcontents. But most persons who have been consulted entertain an unfavorable impression of his political principles, & think there is not full assurance that he would not sacrifice the duties of his station & the intersts of the Government to party considerations. He was named by the Democratic Society vice President, which he has it seems neither accepted nor publicly disavowed.10 Several attach an idea of cunning & duplicity to the character. One good judge of characters thinks favorably of his principles & that reliance may be placed. But the result of a comprehensive enquiry is that there would be hazard in the appointment and the case is believed to be one in which nothing ought to be hazarded.

Colo. Nichols & Major Lenox stand nearly on a level—both men of adequate understanding, honorable characters some property, undoubted firmness, & probable exertion, but on the last point there is greater assurance of Major Lenox. But neither of these gentlemen seem to have that extensive notoriety & popularity of character which is desirable to assist the progress of disagreeable laws. In this particular Mr. Miller or Mr. Biddle has greatly the advantage.

Mr. Clarkson has several things in his favor, perhaps rather more ability that most of the other persons. But he wants bodily activity, which may be a point of consequence & he is said to be much embarrassed in his circumstances.

The Secretary has committed these remarks to writting, not wishing to intrude on the President today, & desirous of placing the subject immediately before him.

If he should conclude on the person before he leaves town it is requested that he would leave a Commission signed but not completed in order that it may be previously ascertained whether Mr. Miller will accept.11

Sunday June 14 1794.

Among the persons who have been consulted is the Attorney General.12 He gave a preference to Mr. Miller. His knowledge of State characters is diffusive & accurate. Mr. Miller was lately a very promising candidate for the place of Senator in the Senate of the UStates.

LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.

1George Clymer, who had been supervisor of the revenue for the District of Pennsylvania since March 4, 1791 (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 81, 82), had recently resigned.

2Washington was planning a trip to Mount Vernon. See Washington to H, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolph, June 10, 1794.

3During the American Revolution Edward Hand had served successively as lieutenant colonel, colonel, brigadier general, and adjutant general in the Continental Army. On March 6, 1792, he had been appointed inspector of the revenue for Survey No. 3 in Pennsylvania (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 102, 111). On June 4, 1794, Hand applied to Washington for the position of supervisor of the revenue in Pennsylvania (ALS, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, 1790–1799, National Archives).

4Miller had been a lieutenant colonel during the American Revolution. He was defeated by Albert Gallatin for the Senate in 1793.

5Biddle, a native of Philadelphia, served as a seaman during the American Revolution. In 1779 he was elected a member of the Assembly from Carteret County, North Carolina. He returned to Pennsylvania and in 1783 was elected a member of the Supreme Executive Council. In 1785 he was elected vice president of the Council. When this letter was written, he was a resident of Philadelphia and a prominent Federalist.

6Nichols, a resident of Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania, had been captured at Quebec on December 31, 1775. In October, 1776, he was exchanged and then served as a captain and major successively. On August 21, 1789, and January 28, 1791, he had applied to Washington for Federal office (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress).

7Matthew Clarkson was mayor of Philadelphia.

8David Lenox had been a captain in the Third Pennsylvania Battalion during the American Revolution. On November 16, 1776, he was wounded and taken prisoner at Fort Washington, and when he was exchanged in May, 1778, he resigned. In 1778–1779 he re-entered the service and became a major and aide to General Anthony Wayne. On December 27, 1793, he was appointed United States marshal for the District of Pennsylvania (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 143–44).

9James Ross was elected to the Senate as a Federalist by the Pennsylvania legislature on March 31, 1794, to fill the vacancy left by Albert Gallatin’s disqualification.

10Biddle, who was one of the founders of the Democratic Society of Pennsylvania, on January 2, 1794, had been elected vice president of the society. According to Biddle’s autobiography, the election took place without his knowledge or consent (James Biddle, ed., Autobiography of Charles Biddle [Philadelphia, 1883], 252).

11On June 16, 1794, Washington “Signed a Commission for Supervisor of Pennsylvania, to be filled up with the name of   Miller, if he will accept the appointment” (JPP description begins “Journal of the Proceedings of the President,” George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 300).

12On June 16, 1794, William Bradford and Edmund Randolph wrote to Washington: “The Secretary of State & Attorney General have the honor to inform the President that they have made the necessary enquiries into the characters of those that have occurred to the Secretary of the Treasury as objects for the appointment of Supervisor for Pennsylvania, & they are of opinion that under all circumstances Colo. Henry Miller is the most eligible person. He appears to them to be a man of abilities, of business, of real spirit & great popularity, and well qualified to discharge the duties of that office” (LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress).

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