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Théophile Cazenove to Egbert Benson and Alexander Hamilton, 29 May 1797

Théophile Cazenove to Egbert Benson
and Alexander Hamilton1

Philadelphia, May 29, 1797. “The enclosed extract of a Letter lately received from General Schuyler2 will create much uneasiness amongst the Dutch proprietors who have obtained the faculty to hold their Lands in the state of New York ’till the 11th. April 1803. A Law passed in the last Session extends that faculty ’till 1816. provided the Dutch Proprietors shall interest themselves as stockholders or money lenders in the Western Canal Company for an amount of 250,000, Dollars.3 I send herewith also a copy of the letter from the managers of the Western Canal Company to Mr. Busti.4 It would be needless to observe how hard & disadvantageous to my friends the conditions offered to them, are. If as Moneylenders at the low rate of 3 ct. the mortgage offered is of a nature which will make an execution, most impossible & certainly fruitless—If as Stockholders, they will be only so to appearance—in short the meaning of the proposals translated in plain words is, ‘You shall loose the 250/m Dollars if the undertaking of the Company does not Succeed. And if they Succeed, You shall have 3 ct. of Your money.’ … I hope the Indian title for the Genesee Lands will be obtained this Year, but for more than a part cannot be expected.5 In the actual state of things both here & in Europe it is not only possible but it is probable that neither exertions nor moderate prices will procure the Sale of all the Lands in the possession of our Dutch friends, at least not at a price equal to the risks, cares & casualties to which the proprietors are Submitted nor proportioned to the long credit the Sale of such a quantity of acres of Land will require.…”

LS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; copy, Gemeentearchief Amsterdam, Holland Land Company. The Holland Land Company documents were transferred in 1964 from the Nederlandsch Economisch-Historisch Archief, Amsterdam.

1The copy of this letter was enclosed in Cazenove to Benson and H, July 5, 1797.

This letter was written to H and Benson in their capacities as attorneys to the six Dutch banking firms which formed the Holland Land Company on February 13, 1796. For the full text of this document and other relevant documents, see Goebel, Law Practice description begins Julius Goebel, Jr., ed., The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton: Documents and Commentary (New York and London, 1964– ). description ends , forthcoming volumes.

2The extract from Philip Schuyler’s letter reads: “It is my opinion & an opinion founded on an axtensive investigation of the views, which prevailed with no inconsiderable portion of the Legislature who had opposed the Law of last Session in every shape, and who only waited the expiration of the term afforded by that Law, to divest the Dutch Gentlemen of this property & that I seriously believed if the Lands were not bona fide Sold to Citizens of this & the United states before the expiration of the Seven Years, attempts would be made, & probably with Success, to deprive the present proprietors thereof that a Sale in trust for Aliens would not stand the test of Law. That I Knew there were many who wished to Speculate on those Lands and whose influence, altho’ they might not be members of the Legislature, was to be dreatet. That only Six Years of the term granted by the Law of last Session remained unexpired. That the Indian title was not Yet extinguished, and Some Years might elapse before that could be accomplished. That if a Sale must be made under such various unfavorable circumstances it would only be considered as a forced Sale and consequently attended with all the disadvantages incident to such Sales. That an extension of the term to 20 or 25 Years would operate nearly as beneficial as the fee Simple if it was the intention to Sell the Lands. That if Such was not their intention the fee would be worth nothing unless they or Some of them Should actually come & reside in this Country, as free booters would take possession, and the expence of ejecting them would go beyond the value of the Land. That if any of the Dutch Gentlemen Should within the extended term find it convenient to reside in this Country the fee for the part that Should be owned by Such residents would immediately thereafter be granted, as that had been the invariable practice of the Legislature. That as the improvements in the internal navigation would be so accellerated by the proposed aid of money as to insure the completion thereof in all the extent to Lake Ontario certainly within the time limitated by the Act of incorporation the Value of the property in question would be so greatly enhanced as far to exceed the Sum to be contributed &caa” (copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress).

3For the efforts of the Holland Land Company to secure legislation enabling aliens to hold land in New York State, see H to Cazenove, January 22, 1796, notes 2 and 3. See also Robert Morris to H, June 7, 1795, note 37.

The name of this corporation was the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company. In 1792 the legislature of New York passed an act incorporating this company along with the Northern Inland Lock Navigation Company. The Western Company was incorporated to make possible water transportation from the Hudson River to Lake Ontario and Lake Seneca by the improvement of existing waterways, the construction of a few small canals, and the building of locks (Joseph Stancliffe Davis, Essays in the Earlier History of American Corporations, “Harvard Economic Studies,” XVI [Cambridge, 1917], II, 160–67).

4Gerard Walton to Paul Busti, May, 1797 (copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress).

Busti, an Italian, had lived in Holland before coming to the United States. In 1796 the Holland Land Company had hired him to assist Cazenove in representing the company’s interests in the United States. When Cazenove returned to Holland in 1799, Busti was placed in charge of all the company’s interests in the United States.

5For the negotiations with the Seneca Indians, see H to Herman LeRoy, William Bayard, and James McEvers, December 16, 1796; March 4–July 19, 1797.

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