Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to William Duer, 17 August 1791

To William Duer

Philadelphia Aug 17 1791

My Dear Friend

I have received your two letters of the 12th and 16th.1

The Subscription Book for the manufacturing Society2 did not remain with me nor with either of the two Gentlemen who came on with me. Is it with neither of those who accompanied you? If it is not, it must have been left at Brunswick & you will do well to write to some trusty person there to look it up & send it to you. I am impatient for the alterations which were agreed upon & a list of the Subscribers.3

La Roche may go to Scioto4 if he can be back in the time you mention.

I fear that in the hurry of writing my letter5 on the subject of Bank Script I must have expressed myself more strongly than was intended.

The conversation here was—“Bank Script is getting so high as to become a bubble” in one breath—in another, “’tis a South Sea dream,” in a third, “There is a combination of knowing ones at New York to raise it as high as possible by fictitious purchases in order to take in the credulous and ignorant”—In another “Duer Constable6 and some others are mounting the balloon as fast as possible—If it dont soon burst, thousands will rue it” &c &c.7

As to myself, my friend, I think I know you too well to suppose you capable of such views as were implied in those innuendoes, or to harbour the most distant thought that you could wander from the path either of public good or private integrity. But I will honestly own I had serious fears for you—for your purse and for your reputation, and with an anxiety for both I wrote to you in earnest terms. You are sanguine, my friend. You ought to be aware of it yourself, & to be on your guard against the propensity. I feared least it might carry you further than was consistent either with your own safety or the public good. My friendship for you & my concern for the public cause were both alarmed. If the infatuation had continued progressive & any extensive mischiefs had ensued you would certainly have had a large portion of the blame. Conscious of this I wrote to you in all the earnestness of apprehensive friendship.

I do not widely differ from you about the real value of Bank Script. I should rather call it about 190 to be within bounds with hopes of better things, & I sincerely wish you may be able to support it at what you mention. The acquisition of too much of it by foreigners will certainly be an evil.8

Yrs. Sincerely & Affect.

A Hamilton

Wm. Duer Esqr.

JCH Transcripts description begins John C. Hamilton Transcripts. These transcripts are owned by Mr. William H. Swan, Hampton Bays, New York, and have been placed on loan in the Columbia University Libraries. description ends .

1Neither of these letters has been found.

2The Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures.

3The meeting of the subscribers to the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures apparently began on August 7 and ended on August 9. See H to Elizabeth Hamilton, August 9, 10, 1791.

4Jean Baptiste de La Roche was one of a group of twenty-four Frenchmen, the Société de Vingt-Quatres, who contracted to purchase one thousand acres each of Scioto lands from Duer. Members of the group came to America in 1790 to take possession of their lands, but the purchase was never completed.

5Letter not found.

6William Constable, a New York merchant, was engaged with Duer in extensive stock speculation in 1790 and 1791.

8On September 6, 1791, Tench Coxe wrote to Duer: "The Secretary of the Treasury has received your letter by M. de la Roche accompanying the manufacturing subscription book. He proposes to retain it here and at his request I transmit you in lieu of it three of the printed subscription papers for the purpose of procuring such additions as may offer at New York. Mr. Dewhurt having applied to Mr. Hamilton for an opportunity of writing two or three sums for himself & friends it will be well that some suitable person call upon him without delay. Papers similar to those in this inclosure will go to day into the hands of six suitable persons, which would have been done before that it was thought expedient first to add the list of the New York Subscribers." To this letter Coxe added the following postscript: "Mr. Hamilton is not well. His old nephritic complaint has visited him tho not severely" (ALS, Papers of Tench Coxe in the Coxe Family Papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia).

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