Alexander Hamilton Papers
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From Alexander Hamilton to George Washington, [31 January 1795]

To George Washington

[Philadelphia, January 31, 1795]

Mr. Hamilton presents his respects to the President—sends him some memorandums of recommendations of officers of Inspection.

With regard to the Supervisor of the So. Western Territory, he is of opinion that still further information is necessary.

He believes Mr. William Nichols who is the brother of Colo. Nichols1 to be a fit person for Inspector of the Revenue for the first survey of Pennsylvania.2

He also entertains a favorable opinion of Colo. Dearborne3 for the like office in the province of Maine. But doubts the legality of his nomination as he was a member of Congress last Session when provision was made for an increase of the Compensations of these officers4 among others.5

LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.

1Francis Nichols. See H to Washington, June 14, 1794, note 6.

2On February 2, 1795, Washington nominated “William Nicholls, of Philadelphia, to be Inspector of the Revenue for Survey No. 1, in the District of Pennsylvania,” and the Senate consented to the appointment on February 3 (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 171).

3Henry Dearborn represented the Maine District of Massachusetts in the House of Representatives from 1793 to 1797.

4This is a reference to Section 6 of “An Act laying duties on licenses for selling Wines and foreign distilled spirituous liquors by retail” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 376–78 [June 5, 1794]), which authorized the President “to make such allowances for compensation to the officers of inspection … as he shall judge reasonable, not exceeding in the whole, two and a half per centum of the total amount of the said duties collected.”

5In the Tench Coxe Papers, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, is the draft of a letter with a list of names attached to it, dated January, 1795, which Coxe wrote to H and which he endorsed “not sent.” This letter reads: “I enclose to you a list of persons for certain offices in compliance with your desire. The names of the several recommenders are set against them, it being my wish not to recommend any person, as of myself. It is best that I should not, because after all the pains of Enquiry & reflection I have applied to accommodate you and serve the United States in that way you have taken occasion to observe since the last information of that kind desired of me—that I did not mention to you for appointments persons unfriendly to the Government because I would know it would be in vain.

“It is not from the least warmth, but from salutary reasons that I remind you, that from the day of the Nomination of the Treasury agent for loans in August 1790 to the present time I have been called upon by you with great frequency to furnish the Names of persons, suitable for public Employment of every description and degree of importance, at home & abroad, that among them have been many persons qualified to give efficiency & respectability to the Government, that I have objected in the most explicit manner to those, who were only not dangerous to the Government, and that I have also objected with frankness and perseverence against such as were likely from dangerous weaknesses or from more culpable circumstances to injure the Government. I may safely add that it is perfectly in my power to vindicate by some strong examples in other quarters unknown to you the rectitude of my conduct upon the subject in Question.

“I feel no hesitation in asserting, that your Judgment & mine upon all points relative to this Object involving either friendship or freedom from Enmity to the constitution and its principles have been very generally & strikingly coincident. They have differed I sincerely believe on one point only of that Nature which I mention with no view, but that of a reasonable defence resulting from the State of facts—I mean the difference of our opinions upon the Theory of Government. It may be rationally presumed from the sentiments on that point which you entertain that the approving of a Theory different from that of our constitution would operate in your mind no diminution of the pretensions of a candidate. I must say that The Knowledge of such a fact in regard to any person would constitute an objection in my mind And Holding the cardinal principle of the constitution to be that of representation I should consider as unfriendly to it (and indeed to good Government) the introduction of any provision by which hereditary organs or the people at large could enact or execute the national laws.

“Conscious, as on Searching my heart, I am, of great Attachment to our Government, remembering my sufferings in mind & fortune from zeal and exertions in the struggles to procure it, and claiming some merit in the Administration, & in the vindication of that Government its operations and the country against injurious errors, both domestic & foreign, you will not be surprized, on recollection of your remark, at this serious communication to which my sensibility has impelled me. This is the third Occasion and the third form in which Ideas of this Nature have been intimated by you. I had encouraged myself in the hope that they would not have occured again as in the first instance & I had satisfied you that I never had a political conversation with the gentleman you mentioned except one about an office by your request—and as little of any other communication. An examination of the second case convinced you, that out of the seven Gentlemen then in my office two had been transfered to it from the Registers by your own Arrangment, another had been invited into it with your concurrence on reflexion, having been previously appointed to a respectable office by the President, two others were of Jersey recommended by Genl. [Philemon] Dickinson, a sixth a father of a large family recommended by Mr. Samuel Howell, and was like the seventh a decayed Merchant, of respectable Connexions. They were unable to maintain their families from age or misfortune. I am sure you had been misinformed or you never would have made the observation concerning them.” (ADfS, Tench Coxe Papers, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.)

The list of names which Coxe attached to this letter reads:

“The inspector of the Reve. for the first Survey of Pennsa—Col William Nicholls—proposed by the Supervisor.

“The Supervisor of the District of Tennesee Col. Jas. King—proposed by Col. Abner Thomas.

“For the same Station—James Blair Esqr—proposed by Francis Preston Esqr. of the Virginia Representation.

“The Inspector of the Revenue for the first (or Main) Survey of Massachusetts—Henry Dearborn Esqr proposed by Nicholas Gilman.”

A shorter version of Coxe’s letter to H, which is also dated January, 1795, and also endorsed “not sent,” may be found in the Tench Coxe Papers, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

On February 3, 1795, Coxe wrote to Oliver Wolcott, Jr.: “Having casually met Col. [Andrew] Moore of Congress in the Street, I asked him, if he was so well acquainted with Characters in the Tennessee Government as to furnish a Name or Names, which he would recommend to the President as suitable for the Office of Supervisor of the Reve. This was in June last—Mr Preston coming up the conversation extended to him. He mentioned Mr. Blair then, I think, and he afterwards mentioned him in a letter from his place of Residence in Virginia. I wish to give all our respect to Mr. Prestons recommendation and every candid chance to Mr. Blair” (ALS, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, 1790–1799, National Archives).

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