Contract for Army Rations
[Philadelphia] October 28, 1790. “… Alexander Hamilton for and in behalf of the … United States of America, and … Theodosius Fowler …1 have mutually covenanted and agreed … that [Fowler] … shall supply and issue as many rations … as shall be required of him for the service of the United States.…” during 1791 at the western army posts.2
Copy, New-York Historical Society, New York City.
1. Fowler was a New York City merchant.
2. This seemingly innocuous contract produced a great deal of controversy and litigation. On March 25, 1802, a committee of the House of Representatives reported that Fowler
“… states that he was only the nominal contractor with the Treasury, for and on account of William Duer, and that it was so understood at the Treasury when he made the contract; that he was in no way personally interested in the agency or profits; that he never has furnished any supplies, nor drawn any moneys from the Treasury in consequence thereof: but, on the contrary, that William Duer supplied the army, and drew all the advances made by the Treasury, and negotiated the whole of that concern exclusively and independently of him, and that he knows nothing in relation thereto, except what information he has lately obtained of those transactions from the public accounts and documents. That William Duer, in or about the year 1793, was much embarrassed in his circumstances, imprisoned in the jail of the city of New York at the suit of his creditors, and remained in prison until his death, in the spring of the year 1800. That afterwards, on the 5th of September, 1800, a bill in chancery was filed against the petitioner in the circuit court of the district of New York, for a supposed balance claimed by the Treasury of the United States from him of $10,799 29, under the before-mentioned contract.
“He states that that balance was not struck between the contracting parties, but stated ex parte by the Treasury, upon the credit and vouchers returned to the Treasury; for supplies delivered on the one hand, and the Treasury charges for advances on account of that contract on the other hand; that, if admitted to a re-examination of that account, he can demonstrate that more credit is due to the contractor, and that the contract is not justly chargeable for all the moneys with which it is debited.
“That the vouchers and regular evidences of the contractor, for supplies furnished between the 1st day of October and the defeat of St. Clair’s army by the Indians, which happened on the 4th day of November, fell into the hands of the enemy; and concluding with a prayer to be discharged from further prosecution, and from the demand which he conceives an unjust claim against him, or, that at least improper charges may be rectified, and just credits, upon satisfactory proofs, may be allowed to him.” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Claims, I, 259.)
The committee concluded that the claim against Fowler should be “extinguished” and that the case against him should be dropped. It also reached the conclusion that the government under the terms of the contract with Fowler and of a subsequent contract with Duer (dated April 26, 1791) owed Duer money.