To William Duer
April 7th 1791
In consideration of the moderate terms of Mr Fowler’s contract with the public2 and from a disposition to give all requisite aid to the Contractor in order that the public service may be effectually & certainly performed, I accede to the requests contained in your letter,3 as explained in conversation—that is to say—I will advance immediately to you as Agent to Mr Fowler thirty thousand Dollars, and a further sum of twenty thousand Dollars at the expiration of forty five days from the date of this letter.
If upon the first of October next there is a satisfactory evidence that the public service has called for supplies (which have been furnished) to an amount sufficient to entitle the Contractor to the additional sum of thirty thousand Dollars they shall be paid; though he should not be then ready to comply with the forms of the Treasury.
I am, Sir, Your Obedt. Servt.
Secretary of the Treasury
William Duer Esqr.
Copy, New-York Historical Society, New York City.
1. The copy of this letter is incorrectly dated “April 7, 1792.”
2. Theodosius Fowler was a New York City contractor and a speculator in securities and land.
The contract, signed by Fowler with the Treasury Department on October 28, 1790, was transferred to Duer on January 3, 1791. A copy of the assignment is in the New-York Historical Society. For Fowler’s statement on the contract, see “Contract for Army Rations,” October 28, 1790, note 2. Also in the New-York Historical Society is an undated document in William Duer’s handwriting which is endorsed: “Memorandum of appropriation by Theodosius Fowler of 20.000 Dollars received on Acct. of the Contract. Octr.–1790.” After the defeat of Major General Arthur St. Clair’s expedition by the western Indians in November, 1791, congressional investigations stressed the fact that one of the principal causes for the debacle was the failure of the contractor to provide adequate supplies. At that time the terms of this contract and the circumstances under which it was issued became a major source of controversy. The May 8, 1792, report of the House committee appointed to inquire into the failure of the St. Clair expedition pointed out that the contract originally issued to Fowler had required a bond of one hundred thousand dollars, with Walter Livingston and John Cochran as securities. After the transfer of the contract to Duer, a second contract was entered into by Duer with the War Department for supplying the troops at Fort Pitt, and “a bond was at the same time entered into by the said William Duer for the due execution of the said contract, in the penalty of four thousand dollars, without any security whatsoever” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Military Affairs, I, 36). On February 15, 1793, the committee issued a supplementary report in which it was stated that “From documents received by the committee, since their last appointment, it appears, that the copy of the before mentioned transfer was not lodged in the office of the Secretary of the Treasury, until the seventh of April, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-one; at which time it was received by the Secretary of the Treasury, under cover of a letter from William Duer, informing him of the circumstance of the said transfer, and making requisitions for certain advances of money; that the Secretary of the Treasury, by a letter in reply of the same date, agrees to make the advances required to William Duer, as the agent of Theodosius Fowler.
“It appears that all the warrants issued from the Treasury, for the purposes of this contract, were issued to William Duer, as the agent of Theodosius Fowler.
“The Secretary of the Treasury has furnished the committee with the written opinions of the Attorney General of the United States, and several other lawyers of eminence, all of whom concur in opinion, that the securities to the bond, originally given by Theodosius Fowler, for the execution of this contract, are now responsible for all damages consequent upon any breach of that contract.
“The Secretary of War, who alone appears to have been the agent, on the part of the United States, in all things relating to the execution of the contract has always corresponded with William Duer as the contractor, and his correspondence commences at a date prior to that of the copy of the contract lodged at the treasury.” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Military Affairs, I, 42.)
Concerning the contract for four thousand dollars with the War Department, the committee reported: “The Secretary of War … states, that it was not the custom of the office to require other security than that of the contractor, for the due execution of contracts of small amount; and it appears, by a letter of the Secretary of the Treasury, written since the former report, that the Secretary of War consulted with him upon the occasion alluded to, and that he agreed in opinion, that farther security was not necessary” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Military Affairs, I, 42).
For the findings of the committee on the culpability of the contractor, see ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Military Affairs, I, 36–39, 41–44; ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Claims, 259–62.
3. Letter not found.