Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Nathaniel Chipman, 14 July 1788

From Nathaniel Chipman1

Tinmouth [Vermont] July 14. 1788


Your character as a federalist, has induced me, altho’ personally unknown to you, to address you on a subject of very great importance to the State of Vermont, of which I am a citizen, and from which, I think, may be derived a considerable advantage to the fœderal Cause.2 Ten States have now adopted the new fœderal plan of government. That it will now succeed is beyond doubt; what disputes the other states may occasion, I know not. The people of this State, could certain obstacles be removed, I believe, might be induced almost unanimously to throw themselves into the fœderal Scale. You are not unacquainted with the Situation of a considerable part of our landed property. Many grants were formerly made, by the government of New York, of lands within this territory, while under that jurisdiction. On the assumption of government by the people of this State, the same lands, partly it is said, for want of ⟨in⟩formation respecting the true Situation of those grants, and partly from ⟨the⟩ opinion prevailing with our then Leaders, that the New York grants within this territory were of no validity, have been granted to others under the authority of this state. It is now generally believed that should we be receivd into the union the New York grants would in the federal Court be prefered to those of Vermont. The Legislature of this State have in some instances made a compensation to the grantees under New York; and I am persuaded, were it in their power, would gladly do the same for others, but they are possessed of no more land for that purpose. For these reasons, I presume, no others, the Governor3 and some few gentlemen deeply interested in those lands under Vermont have expressed themselves some what bitterly against the new federal plan of government. Indeed were we to be admitted unconditionally it would introduce much confusion. Now, Sir, permit me to ask, whether you do not think it probable, that the fœderal Legislature, when formed, might, on our accession, be induced on some terms to make a compensation to the New York grantees out of their western land? and whether those grantees might not be induced to accept of such compensation? Let me farther Suggest whether it might be favorable for Vermont to make some of those amendments, which have been proposed by Several States, and which I think are generally within the power of the fœderal Legislature the basis of her admission? Could the difficulties, I have mentioned, be removed all interest in opposition would here be reconciled; the Idea of procuring Justice to be done those, whom we had, perhaps, injured by our too precipitate measures, and of being connected with a government which promises to be efficient, permanent and honorable, would I am persuaded produce the greatest unanimity on the Subject. If you think these matters worthy the attention of the friend of the confederacy, be good enough to write me by my brother, who will be the bearer of this.4

Our Legislature will meet in October, when these matters will be taken up Seriously. Several gentlemen of my acquaintance who are men of influence, and will be members of the Legislature have requested me to procure all the information in my power on this Subject. Any thing you may communicate to me in confidence will be Sacredly attended to, of which Mr. Kelly5 who writes by the same opportunity6 will give you the fullest assurance.

I am Sir with Sentiments of esteem your most obedient Servant

Nathl Chipman

Alexdr Hamilton Esqr.

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Chipman, a native of Connecticut, settled in Vermont soon after his admittance to the Connecticut bar in 1779. He was active in the political affairs of the newly formed state, serving in the legislature and as an assistant justice of the Supreme Court of Vermont.

2The dispute between New York and Vermont which had lasted more than a decade had come close to a settlement in the spring of 1787 when the New York Assembly passed a law recognizing the independence of Vermont. The bill, however, had been defeated by the Senate. It remained the wish of many Vermonters, Chipman among them, to settle the controversy with New York. Daniel Chipman, brother of Nathaniel, gave the following account of the background of this letter:

“Nathaniel Chipman … felt extremely anxious to devise some means by which the controversy with New York might be speedily adjusted. And in the early part of July [1788] a number of gentlemen, among whom were the late Judge Morris, then of Tinmouth, and the late Judge Olin, of Shaftsbury, met at his house in Tinmouth to hold a consultation on the subject, and they took this view of it. They said that Hamilton, Schuyler, Harrison, Benson and other leading federalists in New York must be extremely anxious to have Vermont join the union, not only to add strength to the government, but to increase the weight of the northern and eastern states. This was, therefore, the most favorable time for settling the controversy with New York, and it was agreed that Nathaniel Chipman should write to Hamilton on the subject.” (Daniel Chipman, The Life of Hon. Nathaniel Chipman [Boston, 1846], 70–71.)

3Thomas Chittenden, governor of Vermont.

4The bearer of this letter was Daniel Chipman. See note 2.

5John Kelly, a New York land speculator, who represented in Vermont the interests of several prominent New Yorkers interested in Vermont land.

6Letter not found.

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