Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Joseph Nourse, 1 May 1792

From Joseph Nourse1

Registers Office [Philadelphia] 1st. May 1792


I have the honor to enclose the several papers, upon which I have attempted to form a Conjectural Estimate of the Monies due to the War Department for the year 1791.2 A. Estimate of the Rations issued by the Contractors 1791.3 with subordinate vouchers No. 1 a 11—4

B.   do. at Brunswick, Philadelphia, Carlisle and other places on the Rout to Fort Pitt together with the probable Expence of transporting the Baggage of the Troops and supplies of Quarter Mrs. Stores.5

Together with the following papers viz.

Jos: Howell Acting Pay Mr. his Account of monies paid to Mr. Duer.6

do. his Conjectural Estimate of monies due the war Department 17917

Extract from a Claim filed in the Auditors Office8

I have attempted but without Effect to obtain a return of the provisions which remained on hand at the several Posts on the 31st. Decemr. 1791. All which are submitted. Being with great Respect Sir Your most obedt: Sert.

J. N.

Hon: Alexr. Hamilton Esqr.
Secty. of the Treasury

ALS, RG 53, Register of the Treasury, Estimates and Statements for 1792, Vol. “134-T,” National Archives.

1This letter concerns contracts for Army rations made with the War Department. On October 28, 1790, Theodosius Fowler, a New York City merchant and speculator in land and securities, contracted to supply rations to several western Army posts during the year 1791 (see “Contract for Army Rations,” October 28, 1790). On January 3, 1791, Fowler assigned his contract to William Duer (see H to Duer, April 7, 1791). On March 26, 1791, a separate “contract was entered into by William Duer with the Secretary of War, for supplying the troops with provisions until their arrival at Fort Pitt …” (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, which gives the date incorrectly as April 26, 1791). This contract was authorized by “An Act for raising and adding another Regiment to the Military Establishment of the United States, and for making farther provision for the protection of the frontiers” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 222–24 [March 3, 1791]). After the defeat by the Indians in November, 1791, of the United States troops under the command of Major General Arthur St. Clair, the House of Representatives on March 27, 1792, appointed Thomas FitzSimons, William Branch Giles, John Steele, John Francis Mercer, John Vining, Abraham Clarke, and Theodore Sedgwick a committee “to inquire into the causes of the failure of the late expedition under Major General St. Clair …” (Journal of the House, I description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826), I. description ends , 552). On April 4, 1792, the House requested three members of the committee to deliver to the President a resolution of that date requesting papers relevant to the inquiry which were in the possession of the executive branch of the Government (see George Washington to H, April 6, 1792). On April 24, 1792, H and Henry Knox appeared before the committee for two hours. In an undated letter which Knox wrote to the committee in either January or February, 1793, he described this meeting as follows: “… A considerable portion of this time was employed with the Secretary of the Treasury relatively to the assignment of the Contract by Theodosius Fowler to William Duer—that a conversation took place relatively to the due bills issued by the contractors the Clothing of the levies and the time the Money was forwarded for their payment. Neither the Secretary of the Treasury nor myself recollect that any other objects were then mentioned than those here specified” (copy, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston).

On February 15, 1793, a House committee with a somewhat different membership issued a revised report. Two errors in the original report that had cast suspicion on Duer’s contractual relations with the Government were corrected. First, the original report had stated that Duer’s contract stipulated that he provide supplies for the troops en route to Fort Pitt and at Fort Pitt. The revised report made it clear that Duer was not responsible for supplies for the troops at Fort Pitt. Second, the revised report revealed that the Government had paid Duer $5,437.91 rather than the $15,000 which the committee had stated in the original report. In connection with this second point, on January 7, 1793, Samuel Meredith, treasurer of the United States, had written to the committee as follows:

“I do certify that the within warrant No. 949 for 15000 dollars was made payable to Joseph Howell for the use of the department of War, the transcript of expenditures on account of said department transmitted to the Honorable Thomas Fitzsimons the 6th April 1792 mentioning that it was paid to Joseph Howell for William Duer being a mistake occasioned by this and a number of other warrants paid by the direction of the Secretary of the Treasury at the Bank of North America without my drafts (and remaining in the said bank as their vouchers for payment) there being no comptroller in that time to countersign them.” (Copy, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.)

2The estimated amount of money due the War Department for 1791 was $58,698.10¾ (D, RG 53, Register of the Treasury, Estimates and Statements for 1792, Vol. “134-T,” National Archives).

3The enclosure, entitled “An Estimate of Rations issued to the Troops of the united States in the Year 1791 under the Contract of Theodosius Fowler,” showed a total of $70,385.32¾ (D, RG 53, Register of the Treasury, Estimates and Statements for 1792, Vol. “134-T,” National Archives).

4The eleven vouchers, which Nourse enclosed with this letter, were the returns for the troops stationed at Fort Franklin, Fort Harmar, Fort Washington, Dunlaps Station, Covalt Station, Fort Hamilton, Fort Jefferson, Fort Knox, Fort Steuben, the Rapids of Ohio, and Fort Pitt (D, RG 53, Register of the Treasury, Estimates and Statements for 1792, Vol. “134-T,” National Archives).

Between the first and second vouchers there is a two-page “Estimate of Rations supplied the Troops from the places of their respective Rendezvous to Fort Pitt, at Fort Pitt and for their Subsistence down the River Ohio.” Although this estimate was marked as being erroneous and its total was not used in the summary of these vouchers, it was apparently included in the material transmitted to H, for a note in H’s handwriting on the second page of the estimate reads: “(erronius) vide seperate Return for this object.”

5This estimate, totaling $17,861.20, is entitled “Estimate of Rations supplied the Troops on the Road to Fort Pitt and probable Expence of transporting their Baggage and Quarter Masters Stores” (D, RG 53, Register of the Treasury, Estimates and Statements for 1792, Vol. “134-T,” National Archives).

6This enclosure, entitled “William Duer, Esquire, to the united States, Dr: For Cash recd: of Jos: Howell, Acting P. M. Gl,” states that Duer had been advanced $5,437.91 (D, RG 53, Register of the Treasury, Estimates and Statements for 1792, Vol. “134-T,” National Archives).

7The amount that was estimated as due to the War Department from the contractor and his agents was $17,948.69 (D, RG 53, Register of the Treasury, Estimates and Statements for 1792, Vol. “134-T,” National Archives).

8This extract is entitled “A Claim is filed in the Auditors Office on Behalf of the Contractor, for sundry supplies to the Army, stated to have been furnished between the 14 Augt. and 20 Nov. 1791” and states that during that period the value of supplies furnished the Army amounted to $55,951.56 (D, RG 53, Register of the Treasury, Estimates and Statements for 1792, Vol. “134-T,” National Archives).

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