Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Alexander J. Dallas, 24 February 1791

From Alexander J. Dallas1

Philadelphia, February 24, 1791. Forwards “copy of a letter from the Comptroller Genl. of Penna … respecting the final Certificates … paid over to this State by the agents for settling the Accts. of the Penna. line in the late Army.”2

ADfS, Division of Public Records, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg; LC, Division of Public Records, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

1Dallas came to the United States from the West Indies in 1783 and settled in Philadelphia, where he eventually became a lawyer. During the Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention he aroused the criticism of Federalists by publishing Antifederalist views of the convention. From the spring of 1787 to May, 1789, he was editor of the Columbian Magazine, and by publishing court cases, including those of the United States Supreme Court, enhanced his legal reputation. Late in 1790 he became secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a position he held until 1801. During this period he became the leader of the Republicans in Pennsylvania.

2John Nicholson, who had come to Philadelphia from Wales before the American Revolution, was appointed comptroller general of Pennsylvania in 1782. In April, 1790, members of the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council made an unsuccessful attempt to remove him from his position. Impeachment proceedings against him in 1794 were equally unsuccessful, but led to Nicholson’s resignation as comptroller general. He then gave his full attention to the encouragement of immigration and to land speculation in partnership with Robert Morris. He died in debtors’ prison in 1800.

Nicholson’s letter was in answer to “Treasury Department Circular to the Governors of the States,” January 14, 1791, and stated that the certificates amounted to “one hundred and fifty one thousand three hundred and fifty six Dollars and nine ninetieths of a Dollar” (Pennsylvania Archives, 9th ser. description begins Pennsylvania Archives, 9th ser. (n. p., 1931–1935). description ends I, 39).

On May 4, 1784, Major Thomas B. Bowen and Erkurius Beatty had been appointed Continental agents for issuing certificates for the arrears of pay to the officers of the Pennsylvania line (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXVI, 341). Bowen later deposited the remaining unused certificates with Nicholson. This deposit and Nicholson’s subsequent refusal to send the unused certificates to the Pennsylvania legislature until the accounts had been settled with the United States were cited among the complaints of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives during the impeachment proceedings against Nicholson in 1794.

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