Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Otho H. Williams, 30 October 1792

From Otho H. Williams

Baltimore 30th October 1792


I have too much reason to expect that a decree in the Court of Chancery for this state will very soon make it necessary for me to provide for the payment of a considerable sum of Money, for which I became security, but which I cannot do, in due time, without disposing of the inconsiderable share I have in the public funds.

To my astonishment I have been told that I cannot dispose of my own funded Certificates (and it will be found upon a comparison of the books that I funded almost none but my own) without incurring a penalty under a certain act of Congress.1 Certainly this opinion is not correct. If it is am I not deprived of the use of property rendered sacred by the repeated voluntary obligations of Government; and may I not in effect, be eventually deprived of my liberty by the operation of such a law? For the want of that same property may expose me to a state Execution by which I may be legally locked in a Goal. If it is law it is not justice. But just or unjust I would not intentionally violate a law of Congress, if I could help it.

In the present case I am without an alternative, unless the Treasurer of the United States will take my Stock at “the lowest” market price which will afford me the plea of having received a debt. Surely it would not pertinaciously be called dealing in stock. Mr. Christopher Richmond my agent will call upon you and if the treasury does not purchase at present I will acknowledge it as a singular favor if you will instruct him how to conduct the business, if it be possible, so as to avoid a malicious prosecution

I have the honor to be Sir,

ADf, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.

1“An Act making alterations in the Treasury and War Departments” forbade “all officers of the United States concerned in the collection or disbursement of the revenues thereof” from dealing in the funds or debts of the United States or of any state (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 281 [May 8, 1792]). For the opinion of the Attorney General on the interpretation of this law, see Edmund Randolph to H, June 26, 1792.

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