Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from William Short, 8 November 1791

From William Short

Paris Nov. 8. 1791.


Of the six million loan lately made, three millions of florins have been remitted & have yielded 8,170,000₶.1 I had intended that the rest should be kept in the hands of the bankers to answer your draughts for 2½ millions of florins & such other demands as might arise. But some days ago the commissaries of the treasury2 requested I would direct our bankers to pay theirs f 560,000, in order to face a demand against them at the Hague for that sum in the course of this month. As our bankers wrote to me3 at the same time that they had informed those of France they were ready to do it on recieving my orders I supposed it proper to give them. The commissaries of the treasury proposed to fix the exchange at 44. which being somewhat more advantageous than the then rate I accepted without hesitation. There still remains of this loan to answer your demands f 2,440,000. Should your bills for the whole amount of 2½ millions arrive before any new loan is made the bankers will undoubtedly find no difficulty in making the temporary advance of f 60,000. They suspect probably that you will draw on them for a part of this loan, but they cannot form an idea of the amount unless they have been informed from America.

In their last letter to me of the 24th. of Octobr. they informed me that they had received the greater part of the loan. I suppose it probable it is completed at present. They add that the present high rate of British stocks & favorable exchange had induced great numbers of the Dutch capitalists to sell out & that cash had become so abundant in consequence thereof that they had great hopes the U.S. would be able to make a loan at Amsterdam before the expiration of the year a 4½ p. cent interest. It is much to be desired that this should be effected before the 1st. of January next as I learn from them a tax is to [be] levied on all loans made after that time.

I mentioned to you in my last of the 10th. ulto that I had authorized the opening a loan at Antwerp if it could be done at 4½ p. cent interest & 5. p. cent commission. Since then there has been an increase of cash & the Emperor has opened a loan at Amsterdam at 4. p. cent (which as I am told has not failed though it has not fully succeeded). These circumstances facilitating the American loans, Mr. Morris recieved for answer from his correspondent at Antwerp4 that he had taken measures for carrying the loan into effect, I suppose by consulting with the brokers, & should come immediately to Paris to conclude the affair with me. He did not know my intention of going to Antwerp & was to leave that place as soon after his letter that it would have been impossible to have stopped him. He is expected here daily. As soon as any thing is done you shall be immediately informed of it. I shall notwithstanding go to Amsterdam as mentioned formerly & for the reason there given.5

My last letters from London6 confirm what had been formerly mentioned & add that it would be improper to attempt a loan there at present, but that one may be counted on in the course of the winter or spring. They add that nothing further can be said before I go there which will be indispensable if the idea is to be prosecuted, & the sooner the better in order to prepare the way. I shall be able whilst in Holland & after knowing the success of new loans there & in Antwerp, better to judge of what should be done with respect to London, bearing in mind that, ceteris paribus, loans in this latter place would be preferred by you. On the whole if the administration of the U.S. continues to have the same success at home their prospects abroad for the next year will become still more bright, as they will be exonerated of their arrears, & enable them to dictate the mode of liquidating their foreign debt. Allow me to congratulate you most cordially on so propitious an event & to assure you at the same time of the sentiments of sincere attachment & profound respect with which I have the honor to be   Sir   Your most obedient   & most humble servant

W Short

The Honble
Alexander Hamilton Secretary of the Treasury Philadelphia

ALS, letterpress copy, William Short Papers, Library of Congress.

1The Holland loan of September, 1791. For a description of this loan, see Short to H, August 31, 1791. On October 24, 1791, Willink, Van Staphorst, and Hubbard wrote to Short: “We have remitted to the National Treasury … Eight Millions One Hundred seventy Thousand Livres cury for account of the United States, Which is about the Three Millions of Guilders You desired us to remit provisionally to the Commissaries” (LS, Short Family Papers, Library of Congress).

2The commissioners of the French Treasury.

3Willink, Van Staphorst, and Hubbard to Short, October 24, 1791 (LS, Short Family Papers, Library of Congress).

4Charles John Michael de Wolf, an Antwerp banker. On October 19, 1791, Gouverneur Morris wrote to Short that Wolf had opened the Antwerp loan (ALS, William Short Papers, Library of Congress). The English translation of the contract for this loan reads as follows:

“On this thirtieth day of November one thousand seven hundred and ninety one, before me John Gerard Deelen, Notary of Antwerp, admitted by the sovereign council of Barbant, in the presence of the witnesses hereafter named, appeared Mr William Short, chargé d’affair of the United States of America at the court of France, at present in this City, and to the witnesses known; exhibiting a power from Mr Alexander Hamilton Secretary of the Treasury of the said united states, dated the first of September 1790, authorising him the said William Short, by virtue of a power of substitution from the President of the United States to the said Alexander Hamilton, dated August the 28th 1790, to borrow under the acts of Congress of the 4th and 12th of August 1790, in any part of Europe, a certain limited sum of money, and to pass and execute such contracts, as he the said William Short shall judge necessary for that purpose: all agreeably to the documents deposited in the Office of C. J. M. De Wolf, Banker of this City, where the said Documents remain for the inspection and satisfaction of the Lenders.

“And the said William Short by virtue of the said power and authority, did acknowledge to have received from sundry Persons, for the use of the united States, the sum of Three millions of florins, money of exchange of Brabant, agreeably to the receipts subjoined to each Obligation of one thousand florins, money aforesaid, as hereafter mentioned; and did declare to be indebted on behalf and on account of the united States, to the said Persons, to the amount of the sum aforesaid, renouncing expressly the exception of monies untold. And the said William Short by virtue of the power aforesaid did promise to reimbourse the said sum of three millions of florins, money of exchange of Brabant to the said Persons, through the office of C. J. M. De Wolf free of all charges whatsover, within fifteen Years after the date of the first of December 1791, under the clauses and conditions hereafter stipulated, to wit:

“That the said sum of three millions of florins money of exchange of Brabant shall not be demandable, during the term of eleven Years, from and after the first of December 1791: That at that period the sum of 600,000 florins money as aforesaid shall be re-imbursed, and the like payments shall be continued from year to year in such manner, that the whole of the said Capital of three millions of florins shall be repaid and extinguished at the end of fifteen years. The united states shall however be at liberty to discharge part, or the whole of the said Capital sum sooner; but always in payments of intire obligations of one thousand florins each.

“In the mean time there shall be paid by the united States aforesaid, on the capital sum, an annual interest of 4½ per cent., to commence from the first of December 1791, and to continue until the principal shall be redeemed, which interest shall be paid upon checks, signed by Mr Gouy, employed in the office of C. J. M. De Wolf, or by such of the proprietors of the obligations as shall have preferred to hold them in their own names.

“That after the expiration of eleven years, the redemption of the obligations shall be determined by Lottery, six hundred numbers to be drawn at the time of each installment, in the presence of a Notary and Witnesses, at the office of C. J. M. De Wolf in the City of Antwerp, where the aforesaid principal, and the interest due, shall be paid, as shall be announced in the public papers.

“And the said William Short by virtue of his power aforesaid did declare, that C. J. M. De Wolf, Banker of this City, shall be the Director of this negociation; promissing in the name of his constituents, that the Amount of the yearly interest, as well as the re-imbursements, hereinbefore stipulated, shall be remitted annually to the said Director, free of all charges to the lenders. And that the present obligation of three millions of florins, or any part thereof, shall never be subject to any Tax or imposition, already laid, or hereafter to be laid by the united States, or by any of the individual states; and that in case of dissension among the said united States, or in the event of actual war, between them and the sovereign of the Belgic provinces, no impediment shall arise from either of these causes in the regular discharge of the interest, nor in the reimbursement of the principal, under any pretext whatsoever.

“And in order to give full effect to this instrument, the said William Short by virtue of the power aforesaid, doth further promisse and declare, that neither the united States, nor any of the said individual states shall enter into any convention, treaty of peace, or other engagement public or private, which might be prejudicial, or contrary to any of the clauses of this contract; and that the same shall be ratified by the President of the united States as soon as possible, and authentic copy of the ratification as well as a translation of the original, deposited at the office of the said Director, there to remain with the authentic Copies, Commissions, and powers of the said William Short, until the said principal and interest shall be discharged.

“And it is agreed, that three thousand Copies of this obligation shall be printed, each for one thousand florins, money of exchange of Brabant, with the name, or in blank, at the choice of the lenders, signed by the said William Short and numbered from 1 to 3000, and countersigned by C. J. M. De Wolf, certifying that the number of the said obligations does not exceed three thousand; which obligations with the receipts annexed shall be delivered up by the proprietors at the respective periods of reimbursement.

“And for the due performance of the aforesaid Contract the said William Short pledges the good faith of the United States, by virtue and authority of the acts of Congress of the 4th and 12th of August 1790, expressly renouncing in the name of the said united States of America the benefit of duobus vel pluribus reis debendi, as well as far as may be necessary, the benefit of ordinis divisionis et excussionis, the effects of which being known to him; promissing never to avail himself thereof.…” (Copy, RG 59, Records Relating to Foreign Accounts, 1782–1797, Letters, Accounts, and Contracts, National Archives.)

6Robert Burton and Alexander Donald to Short, October 4, 1791 (LS, William Short Papers, Library of Congress); Burton and Donald to Short, October 11, 1791 (LS, William Short Papers, Library of Congress).

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