Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Edward Carrington, 25 July 1792

To Edward Carrington

Philadelphia July 25. 1792

My Dear Sir

I have received and thank you for your two letters of the 11 instant.1

When I asked your opinion concerning the most fit position for a branch of the Bank, I had no idea, that the question would have been decided with so much precipitation, as has happened.2 After some loose conversations with individual directors, in which the comparitive merits of different places were slightly discussed, & left as I understood for further information—I was surprised with an intimation, that the place had been decided upon—that Richmond was that place—and that some day in August had been assigned for choosing Directors.3 A predominating motive, though an insufficient one, appears to have been that most of the Bank Stock held in Virginia is held by persons in and about Richmond.

The reasons assigned in your letter in favour of another place are prodigiously weighty. Without committing you, they shall be made known before the thing is finally finished. But I suspect it has gone too far.

Your observations concerning the temper of the people of your state are, as far as they go, consoling. Reflections, according with them, had arisen in my mind; though I could not be sure, that I might not overrate circumstances. I shall wait with expectation, for the further communication, which you are so obliging as to promise.

What you remark concerning the non execution of the Excise Law4 in N Carolina is very interesting. The probable effect of a continuance of the affair in the same posture is obvious. It has been the wish to win the object from time and reflection. But this can no longer be relied upon. The thing must be brought to an issue; and will be, as soon as the new arrangement respecting compensations is completed. If process should be violently resisted in the parts of N Carolina bordering on your state, how much could be hoped from the aid of the Militia of your State?

Truly Yours

A Hamilton

Ed Carrington Esqr

ALS, MS Division, New York Public Library.

1Letters not found.

2As early as November, 1791, H’s aid has been requested in establishing a branch of the Bank of the United States in Alexandria, Virginia. See John Fitzgerald to H, November 21, 1791. See also William Heth to H, June 28, 1792.

On July 10, 1792, the president and directors of the Bank of the United States resolved “that an Office of Discount and Deposit, be established in the City of Richmond, State of Virginia” and that the election of directors should take place at Richmond on September 11, 1792 ([Philadelphia] Gazette of the United States, August 1, 1792).

3In the fall of 1792 the Virginia Assembly considered the possibility of establishing a bank as a device to prevent the opening of a branch bank. There was opposition in Virginia, however, not only to the presumed Federal influence which might be exerted by a branch of the Bank of the United States, but also to the establishment of any specie banks. In a letter to James Madison on October 1, 1792, Thomas Jefferson expressed this view when he wrote:

“… I have reflected on Govr. [Henry] Lee’s plan of opposing the Federal bank by setting up a state one, and find it not only inadequate, but objectionable highly, & unworthy of the Virginia assembly. I think they should not adopt such a milk & water measure, which rather recognises than prevents the planting among them a source of poison & corruption to sap their catholicism, and to annihilate that power, which is now one, by dividing it into two which shall counterbalance each other. The assembly should reason thus. The power of erecting banks & corporations was not given to the general government it remains then with the state itself. For any person to recognise a foreign legislature in a case belonging to the state itself, is an act of treason against the state, and whosoever shall do any act under colour of the authority of a foreign legislature—whether by signing notes, issuing or passing them, acting as director, cashier or in any other office relating to it shall be adjudged guilty of high treason & suffer death accordingly, by the judgment of the state courts. This is the only opposition worthy of our state, and the only kind which can be effectual. If N. Carolina could be brought into a like measure, it would bring the General government to respect the counter-rights of the states. The example would probably be followed by some other states. I really wish that this or nothing should be done. A bank of opposition, while it is a recognition of the one opposed, will absolutely fail in Virginia.” (AL, James Madison Papers, Library of Congress.)

Although the Virginia legislature granted two charters in the fall of 1792 for state banks at Alexandria and Richmond, it did not authorize a Virginia branch of the Bank of the United States until 1795. This branch did not open until 1799, and it was located in Norfolk rather than in Richmond.

4The excise had been established by “An Act repealing, after the last day of June next, the duties hereto-fore laid upon Distilled Spirits imported from abroad, and laying others in their stead; and also upon Spirits distilled within the United States, and for appropriating the same” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 199–214 [March 3, 1791]).

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