Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Benjamin Hawkins, 16 February 1791

From Benjamin Hawkins1

Senate Chamber 16 Feby. 1791.

Dear Sir

I have just received an authentic copy of the Resolutions of the general assembly of North Carolina which I shewed to you in a news-paper some time past, containing among other Items the following instructions to the Senators from that State.

“Resolved that they strenuosly oppose every excise and direct taxation law should any be attempted in Congress.”2

Being of Opinion that the Constitution marks the line of my duty, and that is obligatory on my honor to make my own Judgment the ultimate standard after paying suitable respect to the Opinions and observations of others, I have acted in conformity on a recent occasion. Altho’ it is much to be wished that a discussion of this sort should never have happened, yet in the present case being inevitable, a right decision is of the utmost consequence to the Union. If the States have a right to instruct, why are we bound by oath support to the Constitution?

As no one has contributed more than yourself to the elucidation of the principles of the government I take the liberty to request the service of you, if you should have leisure from the important functions of your office to give me your opinion on this Subject.

I have the honor to be   with the highest respect   Dear Sir   Yr. most obedient   Humble servant

Benjamin Hawkins

The Honble. Alexander Hamilton

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Hawkins was a Federalist Senator from North Carolina.

2On November 24, 1790, the North Carolina legislature passed several resolutions and requested the governor to send copies to the North Carolina Senators and to the legislatures of each state. In addition to the resolution quoted by Hawkins, the Senators were instructed to use their influence to improve mail service in North Carolina, to increase the number of district and state courts, and to correspond regularly with the legislature. They were also instructed to “… use their utmost endeavours to effect economy in the expenditure of the public monies, and to decrease the monstrous salaries given to the public officers and others; who, however much they may be deserving of the public gratitude or liberality for the eminence of past or present services, ought only to be compensated agreeable to republican economy, not enriched with the bounty of regal spendour” (Clark, State Records of North Carolina description begins Walter Clark, ed., The State Records of North Carolina (Goldsboro, North Carolina, 1886–1907). description ends , XXI, 962).

Index Entries