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To Alexander Hamilton from Rufus King, 30 November 1796

From Rufus King

London 30 Nov. 1796

My Dear sir

The Arch Duke having expelled Jourdan & Moreau from Germany1 the Parties are in respect to territory in this Quarter where they were when the campaign began. Buonaparte by the latest accounts from Italy is critically circumstanced, and it seems not improbable that he likewise will be compelled to retire from Lombardy.2 The mission of Lord Malmesbury remains undecided, and though the negotiation is not promising, it does not appear as desperate as it did a fortnight past.3 Paper has intirely ceased as a medium in France, what their ability is to prosecute another Campaign you, as well as I can, may conjecture. New Projects are to be brought forward in this country, and if for no other reason than that they are novelties, they will be hazardous in a society where the Force of habit is stronger than that of Reason. The minister’s4 Plan is not definitively settled, but enough is known to authorise a Belief that it cannot be approved by the monied men—the three per Cents are at about 56. pr Ct. the minister is unwilling to augment the Debt already enormous by borrowing on such Terms—he intends proposing a Loan, which is to be advanced by patriotic Capitalists, upon Terms more advantageous to the Government.5 What Patriotism may do I can’t say, but unless there exists a real conviction in the minds of wealthy men, that their Wealth is in Danger, I should suspect that this virtue pure & dignified as it is, will in this Country prove an unproductive Source when Millions are required. It is Time to make peace for all sides are weary with the war. We must sincerely desire it, since Peace alone will afford us the Tranquillity we wish, and ought, to enjoy.

I do not think it prudent to write my Opinions so far as I have formed them, concerning certain subjects interesting to our Rights, and respecting which you will naturally wish for information from this Quarter. The casualties to which Letters are liable require a caution that between Friends is unpleasant and sometimes inconvenient—you know my Opinions respecting this Country—we have often endeavoured to explain appearances that we disliked, and to preserve our Respect for a nation Who have done much to improve the Condition & happiness of Mankind. I still hope that I have not been deceived, and that experience will prove that the Opinions of those from whom we differed were, as we believed them, partial and erroneous.

We are anxious to hear the Result of the presidential Election—much, very much, will depend on that Event.

Farewell yrs very sincerely

Rufus King

Col Hamilton

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1After their victories in eastern France and Flanders in May, 1796, the French armies commanded by generals Jean Baptiste Jourdan and Jean Victor Moreau advanced toward Germany and Austria. Jourdan was to engage the Austrians with the army of the Sambre and Meuse, while Moreau occupied southern Germany with the army of the Rhine and Moselle. By July, Jourdan had driven the Austrian army eastward across the Rhine, but in late August and early September Archduke Charles recouped with two victories at Amberg and Würzburg, forcing Jourdan’s army back into France. Soon afterward Moreau, who had reached Bavaria, also turned and retreated across the Rhine.

2In the late summer of 1796, Napoleon left a blockade around Mantua, and moved eastward toward the Julian Alps. He had originally planned to reach Lower Austria by way of Trieste, but orders from the Directory diverted him toward Moreau’s army in Bavaria, and on September 8 he defeated Dagobert Sigmund, Count von Wurmser, at Bassano. He was not, however, to advance any farther to the east. By the end of October he had massed defensive forces in Lombardy, the Veneto, and the Friuli, but in early November a concerted Austrian attack forced the French armies westward to the Adige. On November 12, Josef Alvinczy, Baron von Barberek, the Austrian general, withstood an attack by the French and drove them back to Verona, where he hoped to merge his forces with the other column of the Austrian army under Baron Paul Davidovich. Napoleon, however, moving eastward from Verona to Vicenza, met Davidovich’s forces, and at Arcola, from November 15 to 17, 1796, he fought a decisive battle, eventually turning back both the Austrian armies.

3On October 17, 1796, James Harris, first Earl of Malmesbury, left England with instructions to make peace with France provided that the French agreed to restore the Netherlands to Austria. The Directory, however, refused this provision. The negotiations, which were conducted at Lille, broke down, and on November 13 Malmesbury wrote to Lord Grenville, the British Foreign Secretary, that it was likely that he would be ordered to leave France (Dropmore Papers description begins The Manuscripts of J. B. Fortescue, Esq., Preserved at Dropmore (Historical Manuscripts Commission, Vol. 30), III (London, 1899). description ends , III, 268). On November 28 he wrote to Grenville from Paris asking for latitude in negotiating the treaty and suggesting that the negotiations might succeed “Should the emperor consent to an equivalent in lieu of the Austrian Netherlands” (Dropmore Papers description begins The Manuscripts of J. B. Fortescue, Esq., Preserved at Dropmore (Historical Manuscripts Commission, Vol. 30), III (London, 1899). description ends , III, 279). Grenville, however, stuck to his original condition, and on December 19 the Directory ordered Malmesbury home.

4William Pitt, first lord of the Treasury.

5On December 7, 1796, Pitt received the approval of the Ways and Means Committee for his project of a “loyalty” loan of eighteen million pounds to be raised by annuities at five and five-eighths percent interest toward the cost of defense against a possible invasion (Parliamentary Register description begins The Parliamentary Register; Or, History of the Proceedings and Debates of the House of Commons; Containing an Account of the most interesting Speeches and Motions; accurate Copies of the most remarkable Letters and Papers; of the most material Evidence, Petitions, &c. laid before and offered to the House (London, 1775– ). description ends , LX, 262, 275, 293). He had, however, already proposed unofficially that subjects in their private capacity, rather than contractors, should meet the loan. By December 1 a group of six London bankers had agreed to raise three hundred thousand pounds. See Thomas Coutts to the King, December 2, 1796 (A. Aspinall, ed., The Later Correspondence of George III [Cambridge, 1963], II, 521).

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