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From Alexander Hamilton to Oliver Wolcott, Junior, 16 June 1796

To Oliver Wolcott, Junior

[New York] June 16. 1796

Dr. Sir

It appears to me material under our present prospects to complete the three frigates without delay.1 They may be useful with reference to the Algerines—they may be useful to convoy our vessels out of the reach of pickeroon privateers hovering on our Coast. I know you want money2 but could not the Merchants by secret movements be put in motion to make you a loan. I think something of this kind may be done here & I should presume at Philadelphia &c. The sole ostensible object may be the Algerines but the second object may circulate in whispers. If you conclude on any thing I will second you.

Perhaps no bad form of the thing may be to place in the hands of your Agents for building Treasury Bills from 100 to 1000 Dollars payable in a year with interest & to let it be known among the Merchants that they are lodged exclusively to facilitate the equipment of the Ships. But a more direct operation may be attempted & I should hope with success for the sum you may want for the frigates.


A Hamilton

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

1On March 27, 1794, Congress had passed “An Act to provide a Naval Armament” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 350–51) providing for the construction of six frigates. Progress was so slow that a year later only the hulls of three frigates had been completed, and construction on the hulls of two others had just begun. With the conclusion of a peace treaty with Algiers in 1795, work on the frigates stopped altogther. On April 20, 1796, however, “An Act supplementary to an act entitled ‘An act to provide a Naval Armament’” authorized completion of three of the frigates, the United States, the Constitution, and the Constellation (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 453–54). The frigates were not launched until the summer and fall of 1797.

2In a communication to the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives on May 6, 1796, on the need for additional revenue, Wolcott had stated: “It being known to the committee, that no loans can, at present, be negotiated in Europe, and that the high profits which reward commercial enterprise, though beneficial to the community, are obstacles to the success of domestic loans, beyond a limited amount, I cannot, consistently with my duty, omit expressing it as my opinion, that some effectual measures, for improving and extending the revenue, ought to be adopted during the present session of Congress” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Finance, I, 413). See also Wolcott to H, June 17, 1796.

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