Alexander Hamilton Papers
Documents filtered by: Project="Hamilton Papers"
sorted by: relevance

From Alexander Hamilton to Oliver Wolcott, Junior, 30 October[–12 November] 1795

To Oliver Wolcott, Junior

New York October 30. [–November 12] 1795

Dr Sir

I wrote you yesterday for a statement of the advances & appropriations for the Department of State.1

I am very anxious that Fauchet’s whole letter should appear just as it is2—strange whispers are in circulation of a nature foreign to Truth & implicating honest men with Rascals. Is it to come out? Can’t you send me a copy? I will observe any conditions you annex.

The secret Journals & other files of the Department of State will disclose the following facts—that during the War a Commission to negotiate a Treaty of Commerce with G Britain was given to Mr Adams and afterwards revoked3—that our Commissioners for making peace were instructed to take no step whatever without a previous consultation with the French Ministry;4 though there was at the time reason to believe that France wished us to make peace or truce with GBritain without an acknowlegement of our independence—that she favoured a sacrifice to Spain of our pretensions to the navigation of the Missippi & the relinquishment of a participation in the fisheries.

It will appear that instructions were actually given to Mr. Jay to yield the navigation of the Mississippi to Spain, in consideration of an acknowlegement of our Independence5—that Mr. Jay made a proposal accordingly but clogged with some condition or qualification to bring it back to Congress before a final conclusion & expostulated with Congress against the measure.6

It will appear that this was effected by a Southern party7 who would also have excluded the fisheries from being ultimatum8 in which they were opposed by the north who equally contended for Mississippi & Fisheries.

It will appear that Chancellor Livingston as Secy of State reported a censure on our Commissioners for breaking their instructions in the negotiations for peace.9

It will appear that shortly after the arrival in this Country of the preliminary articles I made a motion in Congress to renew the Commission to negotiate a Treaty of Commerce10 with G Britain11 —that a Committee was appointed to prepare one with instructions of which Mr Madison was one & that the Committee never reported.12 Thus stand the facts in my memory. It is very desirable, now that a free access to the files of the Department can give the evidence, to examine them accurately, noting times places circumstances actors &c. I want this very much for a public use in my opinion essential.

It would also be useful to have a copy of Mr. Jefferson’s letter to Congress concerning the transfer of the French Debt to private money lenders on which the Report of the Board of Treasury is founded.13

Yrs. truly

A. Hamilton

O Wolcott Esq

Nov 12

This letter by accident has lain on my desk since it was written. I send it still.

Beaches paper of the 11 has a Valerius14 wh⟨ich⟩ I think gives an opportunity of oversetti⟨ng⟩ him. The leading ideas may be—

1   He discloses the object of the party to place Mr Jefferson in contrast with the President.

2   He discloses the further object—an intimate & close alliance with France subject[ing] us to the vortex European politics & attributes it to Mr. Jefferson.

3   He misrepresents totally Mr. Jeffersons returning from France. A solid answer to this paper with facts would do great good.15

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

1Letter not found.

2This is a reference to Fauchet’s Dispatch No. 10, which was intercepted by the British and turned over to the Washington Administration. For the way in which this dispatch led to Edmund Randolph’s resignation as Secretary of State, see Wolcott to H, July 30, 1795, note 1. See also H to George Washington, October 16, 1795, note 3.

3On September 28, 1779, the Continental Congress approved instructions “for the minister plenipotentiary to negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce with Great Britain”(JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XV, 1117). On October 4, 1779, John Adams was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary “for negotiating a treaty of commerce with Great Britain” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XV, 1143). On July 12, 1781, the Continental Congress adopted a motion “That the commission and instructions for negotiating a treaty of commerce between these United States and Great Britain, given to the honorable John Adams … be and they are hereby revoked” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XX, 746).

4The Continental Congress approved these instructions to the commissioners on June 15, 1781 (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XX, 651–52).

5The instructions to John Jay are dated February 15, 1781, and are printed in JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XIX, 152–53.

6For Jay’s objections to the instructions of February 15, 1781, see Jay to the President of Congress, October 3, 1781 (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (Washington, 1889). description ends , IV, 738–47).

7An obstacle to any change in Jay’s instructions concerning the free navigation of the Mississippi River was the insistence of the Virginia members of Congress that the right not be surrendered. The Virginia members, however, somewhat modified their earlier stand, and this in turn made it possible to alter Jay’s instructions. See JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XIX, 151. For a full account by someone with a firsthand knowledge of these developments, see James Madison to Hezekiah Niles, the editor of [Baltimore] Niles’ Weekly Register, January 8, 1822 (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (Washington 1921–1938). description ends , V, 578–79).

8On February 23, 1779, a committee of Congress reported on various conditions or stipulations which had to be met before a peace could be concluded with Great Britain (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XIII, 239–44). One such condition was “That a right of fishing and curing fish on the banks and coasts of the island of Newfoundland, equally with the subjects of France and Great Britain, be reserved, acknowledged, and ratified to the subjects of the United States” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XIII, 241). For an example of the southern opposition mentioned by H, see the North Carolina Delegates to the South Carolina Delegates, April 2 (?), 1779 (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (Washington 1921–1938). description ends , IV, 129–30).

9The proposed resolutions which Chancellor Robert R. Livingston submitted are contained in his letter to the President of Congress, Elias Boudinot, on March 18, 1783 (LC, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives; printed in Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (Washington, 1889). description ends , VI, 316). The resolutions propose only that the commissioners be informed of the disclosure of the secret article in the provisional treaty to the French minister together with “the reasons which influenced Congress to make it.” Livingston’s remarks on his dissatisfaction with the proposed resolutions suggest a stronger censure of the commissioners. In a letter which Livingston wrote to the commissioners on March 25, 1783, he made clear his disapproval of the article kept secret from France as well as the signing of the treaty without consultation with Versailles (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (Washington, 1889). description ends , VI, 338–40).

10In MS, “Congress.”

11On May 1, 1783, a committee of the Continental Congress, of which H was a member, submitted a resolution “authorising … [the peace commissioners] to enter into a treaty of Commerce between the United States and Great Britain, subject to the revisal of the contracting parties previous to its final conclusion; and in the mean time to enter into a commercial convention to continue in force One—year.…” H was the author of this resolution; for its full text, see “Continental Congress. Report of a Treaty of Commerce between the United States and Great Britain,” May 1, 1783. See also JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIV, 321.

12In addition to James Madison, the committee consisted of Thomas FitzSimons, Stephen Higginson, William Hemsley, and John Rutledge. H was, however, mistaken, for the committee on June 19, 1783, submitted to Congress a report favoring a commercial treaty with Great Britain (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIV, 404).

13This is a reference to Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, September 26, 1786 (Boyd, Papers of Thomas Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton, 1950–). description ends , X, 405–06). For an earlier discussion by H of Jefferson’s letter, see “An American No. I,” August 4, 1792. See also note 10 to that document for the report of the Board of Treasury of February 19, 1787.

14Eleven articles opposing the Jay Treaty and signed “Valerius” were published in Benjamin Franklin Bache’s [Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser. These articles were published on August 22, September 1, 9, 17, 25, October 8, 21, 29, November 11, 19, December 1, 1795.

15Wolcott endorsed this letter: “Oct. 30 & Nov. 12 ansd. 13th. Nov. & sent on Copy of Fr——Letters by Mr. Kuhl translated.” Wolcott was probably mistaken, for it seems more likely that he answered H’s letter on November 14, 1795. See Wolcott to H, November 16, 1795. For the various translations of Fauchet’s Dispatch No. 10 and the copy which Wolcott sent to H, see Wolcott to H, July 30, 1795, note 1, and November 16, 1795. Henry Kuhl, formerly a clerk in the Treasury Department, in 1795 became assistant cashier of the Bank of the United States. See H to Thomas Willing, April 5, 1795.

Index Entries