Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Fisher Ames, 10 June 1792

From Fisher Ames1

Boston June loth. 1792

Dear Sir

Those who percieve the arduous nature of your duties, ought to wish to aid you in executing them. Whether the auther of the Path to Riches,2 had it in view to afford you such aid, or not, I think it fit to send you the work, as our political economy lies much within your department. You have found the path for our Country, and it is advancing in it, tho’ you have not sought it for yourself.3 To drop this obscure way of writing, I enclose Judge Sullivans pamphlet on Banks &c. The modest title page delights me. Where is the upright man to plead for a people?4 Possibly this enquiry may be made by the people whom the auther so much desires to plead for. The fee expected for pleading is supposed to be the Chair of Governor.5 Another view is suggested. A state Bank will afford a good field of speculation, of Which fame, that evil tongue says, many of the legislature were not unmindful at their last Session, when the Tontine was in discussion.6 My friends tell me that the  7 the Chair, the pride of state sovereignity  8 Copy federal institutions and the thirst for speculations will move different parties, and produce some sort of bank9 or Tontine project, and that resistance will be fruitless.

The inconsistent jargon of this pamphlet will make you smile. It will not amuse the many, nor instruct the few, but its bulk will deter many from reading it who will vote for a state Bank, presuming that there are arguments enough for it in that great Book.

All goes well in the State. The people really prosper, and what is more they know and say it, and give credit to the General Government & for the change they have witnessed. I feel persuaded they are perfectly well affected to good measures. I only fear that the high sense of honor in the paying duties is cooling. When money is in the case Merchants need watching. Mr Gore10 mentions some facts which indicate the need of Vigilance.

I do not wish you to answer this. I would not write at all, if by doing it I should impose that task upon you.

I am dear Sir, with perfect esteem   Your most obt. humble servant.

Fisher Ames

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 .

1Ames was a Federalist member of the House of Representatives from Massachusetts.

2Written by James Sullivan, The Path to Riches. An Inquiry into the Origin and Use of Money; and into the Principles of Stocks and Banks. To Which Are Subjoined Some Thoughts Respecting a Bank for the Commonwealth. By a Citizen of Massachusetts (Boston, 1792) was a sustained attack on the policies of the Massachusetts Bank, the state’s most important financial institution. A prominent Boston lawyer and politician, Sullivan had been a member of the Continental Congress in 1782 and a judge of probate for Suffolk County in 1788. In 1792 he was attorney general of Massachusetts.

3Ames is presumably referring to Sullivan’s statement that “Solomon tells us that the rich have many friends; but our Secretary of the Treasury, by making others rich, has obtained [many]; and his reputation derives support, as well from the greatness of his character for enterprise, as from the pecuniary interest which so many rich men have in the support of it” (Sullivan, The Path to Riches, 45).

4Ames is paraphrasing the following verse which appeared on the title page of The Path to Riches:

“Where is the upright man, with skill refin’d,

To check their rage, and cure the public mind,

With honest zeal, to plead a People’s cause,

And guard their equal rights, by equal laws?

5Sullivan was an unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate in 1797 in Massachusetts.

6On June 11, 1791, the day following the opening of the session, the Massachusetts House of Representatives considered the desirability of a subscription to the Bank of the United States. The motion for a subscription was, however, rejected before the House of Representatives adjourned on June 18, 1791. On January 18, 1792, shortly after the session met again, the committee on the petition of William Tudor and others brought in “A Bill to incorporate sundry persons by the name of The President and Trustees of the Boston Tontine Association.” The agents of the Tontine Association were unable to obtain a charter. On March 5, 1792, “the petition of William Tudor Esqr & others praying to be incorporated for the purpose of establishing a Bank by the name of the President & Directors of the State Bank” was read in the Senate. The next day “The Hon: W Heath Esq: brought down the petition of Wm Tudor Esq: & others with a report of the joint Committee thereon that the petitioner have leave to bring in a bill for the purpose prayed for.” Although both houses concurred, Tudor did not bring in a bill (“Journal of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts commencing 25 May 1791 ending 10 March 1792,” 91, 103, 152, 288, 295, Microfilm Collection of Early State Records, Library of Congress).

7This space was left blank in MS with a note which reads: “defaced in original.”

8This space was left blank in MS with a note which reads: “defaced in original.”

9In the session which commenced in June, 1792, the Massachusetts legislature incorporated the Union Bank. The state subscribed to one-third of the new bank’s stock (Bray Hammond, Banks and Politics in America from the Revolution to the Civil War [Princeton, 1957], 165).

10Christopher Gore, who was the United States attorney for the District of Massachusetts, had resigned as director of the Massachusetts Bank on March 1, 1792.

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