Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Benjamin Lincoln, 25 January 1790

To Benjamin Lincoln1


Treasury Department
January 25th. 1790


As it has become my duty to prepare a plan for the consideration of Congress, respecting the encouragement of Manufactures3 it is of course my wish to ⟨secure in⟩formation, which can be had on the Subject.

I shall therefore be obliged to you, for such ⟨– – particular⟩s, as may assist me in forming a right judgement of the means, which may be proper to be pursued.

The several kinds of Manufactures carried on in the State—the places where they are carried on, the times of their Commencements, and the progress they have made—the situation in which they now are—the value of the raw material, and the expences of the Manufacture are all circumstances of which I should be glad to have as precise a knowledge, as can be obtained.

Manufactories of Cannon, Arms, & Gun powder are objects to which I am directed to pay particular attention.

I request an answer to these inquiries as speedily as it can be afforded with due regard to accuracy. Perhaps the information will best be conveyed successively.

I flatter myself the importance of the object in a public view, will be a sufficient apology for the trouble I give.4

And am   Gentlemen   Your Obedient & humble Servant

L[S], RG 36, Collector of Customs at Boston, Letters from the Treasury, 1772–1818, Vol. 6, National Archives; copy, to the President, Directors, and Company of the Society for the Encouragement of Manufactures, Philadelphia, Papers of Tench Coxe in the Coxe Family Papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

1H mistakenly addressed the envelope to Benjamin Lincoln, “Chairman of the Comm of Manufactures.” On May 26, Lincoln wrote to Henry Warren, et al.:

“The Secretary of the treasury of the United States has requested from the academy of arts & Science in this Commonwealth, information from time to time of the Several kinds of manufactures carried on in this State, the places where the time of their commencement the progress which they have made, the situation in which they now are, the value of the raw materials the expence of manufacture and of all circumstances relative to them.

“To the manufacture of Cannon Arms & Gunpowder the Secretary wishes particular attention.

“The academy yesterday raised a committee of nine of which you are one to make the communications requested to this three are competent the Chairman always being one.

“Permit me to request that you would favour me with the state of the manufactures in the County of   as fully and as soon as may be convenient the sooner the better. I am with some Gentlemen in this neighbourhood directed by the academy to report to the Secretary agreeably to his wishes.” (ADf, RG 36, Collector of Customs at Boston, Letters from the Treasury, 1772–1818, Vol. 6, National Archives.)

2Apparently Lincoln never received the original letter. The envelope of this duplicate is postmarked New York, May 18, and Lincoln endorsed it May 20, 1790.

3In his speech to Congress of January 8, 1790, Washington made the following remarks on the subject of manufactures:

“Among the many interesting objects, which will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defence will merit particular regard. To be prepared for War is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

“A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well digested plan is requisite: And their safety and interest require, that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent on others for essential, particularly for military supplies.” (LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.)

On January 15, 1790, the House directed H to prepare “a proper plan or plans … for the encouragement and promotion of such manufactories as will tend to render the United States independent of other nations for essential, particularly for military supplies” (Journal of the House, I description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826). description ends , 141–42).

4This letter indicates that H began to assemble information on manufacturing much earlier than has been supposed. As there is another copy of this letter in a closed private manuscript collection, H probably sent this letter to prominent businessmen throughout the states as well as to government officials. This is similar to the procedure he followed in enclosing questions in the “Treasury Department Circular to the Collectors of the Customs,” October 15, 1789.

On May 11, 1790, Tench Coxe, who succeeded William Duer as Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury, reported H’s request in the following words:

“I am directed by the Secretary of the Treasury to request the early Transmission to him of such information, relative to the subject of his letter to you of the 25th of January last as you may be possessed of at this time. He also instructs me to add, that your future Communications upon the business of Manufactures, as well, in the course of the present Session of the Legislature as in future, must prove of the greatest public utility.” (LS, RG 36, Collector of Customs at Boston, Letters from the Treasury, 1772–1818, Vol. 6, National Archives.)

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