Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Tench Coxe, 16 December 1789

From Tench Coxe

Philadelphia, December 16th, 1789.

Dear Sir,

A few days ago I forwarded to you,1 per post, a “state of our navigation,”2 which I presume you have received. I have the honour to transmit you in this inclosure some notes upon two subjects, one of them of great importance, that may be useful when arranging our affairs with France and Spain. The rough draughts of these papers were made a few weeks before I received your letter, and I then intended to have given them to Mr. Madison in his way to New York, for the purpose of submitting them to Mr. Jefferson, in whose department I thought they might be of use. The general request at the conclusion of your letter justifies me, I hope, in troubling you with them, and in requesting that you will dispose of them as you see fit.

On No. 7, I beg leave to suggest, it may be useful to converse with Col. J. Wadsworth,3 whose opportunities in the branch it concerns are greater than those of any other person among us.

Of the subject of No. 8 it may be truly said, that it is one of the most important objects of business in all our affairs. The calculations you will find are all within the truth, and of course the result on paper might have been rendered much greater.

I congratulate you most sincerely on the adoption of the constitution by North Carolina,4 which almost completes this wonderful revolution. The law of New Jersey5 abolishing the tender of their paper money, in cases wherein gold and silver have been specified in the contract, occasions a further subtraction from the objects, and of course a new inducement to the acquiescence of the opposition. The federal cause has received a fresh confirmation by our convention,6 for I think it may be justly said, that every recognition of the principles of the general constitution, and every step towards an efficient and well balanced government by any member of the Union, is a furtherance of the object. It has been determined,

1. That the legislative power ought not to be in a single house.

2. That the judges, in addition to their former independence from fixed salaries, should be appointed during good behaviour—with some provisions for removal in case of a decay of talents, or of private virtue. This important and difficult clause is not yet digested.

3. That the executive power should be in a single person.

4. That the chief executive officer should have a qualified negative upon the proceedings of the legislature.

Messrs. Finlay,7 Smiley,8 and M’Lene,9 who led the opposition to the federal constitution, have been in the majority which passed these resolutions. It is, therefore, almost certain that the constitution of Pennsylvania, which was the great cause of our opposition to the proceedings of the general convention, will be altered in these important particulars.10 How near to the standard of propriety, which the gentlemen have formed for themselves, they will be able to arrive, is uncertain, for so very democratic have been our former ideas, and so much does a jealousy of the city prevail in the counties, that it must be expected they will influence in some particulars.

I beg your pardon for this digression from the original design of my letter, but the proceedings of each state even in its own arrangements are of so much importance to the order of the whole, that I thought the information I have given would not appear impertinent to the business of your office.

I have the honour to be, very respectfully, sir, your most obedient humble servant,

Tench Coxe

The Hon. A. Hamilton, Esq.

White, Samuel Slater description begins George S. White, Memoir of Samuel Slater, The Father of American Manufactures. Connected with a History of the Rise and Progress of the Cotton Manufacture in England and America (Philadelphia, 1836). description ends , 179–80; ADfS Papers of Tench Coxe in the Coxe Family Papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

2Although this enclosure has not been found, Coxe on another occasion described it as “the present state of the Navigation of Pennsylvania with a comparison of the same with that of the principal Nations of Europe” (Coxe to Madison, March 21, 1790, James Madison Papers, Library of Congress).

3Jeremiah Wadsworth.

4North Carolina ratified the Constitution on November 21, 1789.

5This law was passed November 30, 1789 (Acts of the fourteenth General Assembly of the State of New Jersey at a Session begun at Perth-Amboy on the 27th Day of October 1789, and continued by Adjournments, Being the First Sitting (New Brunswick, 1789).

6The Pennsylvania convention which drafted the state constitution of 1790 sat from November, 1789, to February, 1790, when it published a draft for public discussion and adjourned until August. Reconvening in August, the convention approved the constitution on September 2, 1790.

7William Findley was a western Pennsylvania political leader and Antifederalist. Although the Antifederalists opposed rewriting the state constitution, Findley, a convention delegate in 1789, adopted a conciliatory attitude and facilitated the constitutional convention’s labors.

8John Smilie was an Antifederalist leader from Fayette, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, who took a moderate position in the state constitutional convention, 1789–1790.

9James McLene of Cumberland County, an important Pennsylvania radical, cooperated with Findley and Smilie to draft the new state constitution.

10The convention substantially adopted the four points Coxe listed.

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