Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Thomas Jefferson, [21 November 1792]

From Thomas Jefferson1

[Philadelphia, November 21, 1792]

Th: Jefferson has the honour to inclose to the Secretary of the Treasury a copy of his letter to M. de Ternant,2 communicated to the President & approved by him; also a copy of the note of approbation from the French court of which he spoke to him,3 with the estimate of M. de la Forest4 which the Secretary of the Treasury might perhaps wish to keep by him.

AL, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress; LC, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives.

1For background concerning the request of Jean Baptiste de Ternant for additional aid for Santo Domingo, see H to George Washington, November 19, 1792. See also H to Jefferson, two letters of November 17, November 19, 1792.

2Jefferson’s letter to Ternant of November 20, 1792, reads in part as follows:

“Your letter on the subject of further supplies to the Colony of St. Domingo, has been duly received and considered. When the distress of that Colony first broke forth, we thought we could not better evidence our friendship to that, and to the mother country also, than to step in to it’s relief, on your application, without waiting a formal authorization from the national Assembly. As the case was unforeseen, so it was unprovided for on their part, and we did what we doubted not they would have desired us to do, had there been time to make the application, and what we presumed they would sanction as soon as known to them. We have now been going on more than a twelve-month, in making advances for the relief of the Colony, without having as yet received any such sanction; for the Decree of 4 millions of Livres in aid of the Colony, besides the circuitous and informal manner by which we became acquainted with it, describes and applies to operations very different from those which have actually taken place. The wants of the Colony appear likely to continue, and their reliance on our supplies to become habitual. We feel every disposition to continue our efforts for administering to those wants; but that cautious attention to forms, which would have been unfriendly in the first moment, becomes a duty to ourselves; when the Business assumes the appearance of long continuance, and respectful also to the National assembly itself, who have a right to prescribe the line of an interference so materially interesting to the mother country and the Colony.

“By the estimate you were pleased to deliver me, we perceive that there will be wanting to carry the Colony through the month of December, between 30 & 40,000 Dollars, in addition to the sums before engaged to you. I am authorized to inform you that the sum of 40,000 Dollars shall be paid to your orders at the Treasury of the united States, and to assure you that we feel no abatement in our dispositions to contribute these aids from time to time, as they shall be wanting for the necessary subsistence of the Colony: but the want of express approbation from the national legislature must ere long produce a presumption that they contemplate perhaps other modes of relieving the Colony, and dictate to us the propriety of doing only what they shall have regularly and previously sanctioned.…” (Letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.)

3On June 13, 1792, Ternant had sent to Jefferson an extract from a letter dated December 31, 1791, from Claude Antoine de Valdec de Lessart, who was French Minister of Foreign Affairs from November 28, 1791, to March 17, 1792. De Lessart’s letter, which Ternant received on June 12, 1792, reads as follows: “J’ai mis sous les yeux du Roi le compte que vous avez rendu de la mission du St. Roustan, et des démarches que vous avez faites pour procurer des Secours à L’Isle de St. Domingue. Sa majesté a autant approuvé votre conduite, qu’Elle a été sensible à l’empressement avec lequel les ministres americains ont accueilli vos demandes; vous voudrez bien le leur faire connaitre et assurer particuliérement M. le Président des Etats unis combien Elle sait apprécier les sentiments qui l’ont dirigé dans cette facheuse occurrence” (letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress).

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