Alexander Hamilton Papers

Conversation with George Beckwith, [26–30 September 1790]

Conversation with George Beckwith1

[New York, September 26–30, 1790]2

… 7.3 I have already explained my opinions very fully on the mutual advantages, that must result to the two countries from an approximation in commercial matters in the first instance; foreign nations in common are guided solely by their respective interests in whatever concerns their intercourse; between You and us there are other circumstances; originally one people, we have a similarity of tastes, of language, and general manners; You have a great commercial capital, and an immense trade, we have comparatively no commercial capital, and are an agricultural people, but we are a rising country, shall be great consumers, have a preference for Your manufactures, and are in the way of paying for them; You have considerable American and West India possessions, our friendship or enmity may soon become important with respect to their security, and I cannot foresee any solid grounds of national difference, between us; I do not think the posts are to be considered in this light, and we have no desire to possess any thing to the northward of our present boundaries as regulated by the peace; but the navigation of the river Missisippi we must have, and shortly, and I do not think the bare navigation will be sufficient, we must be able to secure it by having a post at the mouth of the river, either at New Orleans, or some where near it; there are reports, that the Spanish Government are disposed to change their system,4 but this I doubt, for it is so different from their national character.

You know we have two parties with us; there are gentlemen, who think we ought to be connected with France in the most intimate terms, and that the Bourbon compact furnishes an example for us to follow; there are others who are at least as numerous, and influential, who decidedly prefer an English connexion, but the present condition of Great Britain and the States is favorable to the former party, and they are zealous to improve it; the present therefore is the moment to take up the matter seriously and dispassionately, and I wish it done without loss of time.

We consider ourselves perfectly at liberty to act with respect to Spain in any way most conducive to our interests, even to the going to war with that power, if we shall think it advisable to join You.

D, Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

1This document was enclosed in Lord Dorchester to William Wyndham Grenville, November 10, 1790.

This is the second of two conversations between Beckwith and H which were described in Dorchester’s letter to Grenville of November 10, 1790.

2It is not possible to determine the date on which this conversation took place. Presumably it followed soon after the conversation of September 25–30, 1790.

37 was the code number for H.

4This is apparently a reference to rumors reaching the United States at the beginning of the Nootka Sound controversy that Spain, fearing an Anglo-American alliance, might be willing to negotiate the question of American navigation of the Mississippi. The settlement of the Nootka Sound affair, however, removed Spain’s incentive for negotiation, and no agreement between Spain and the United States was reached.

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