Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Richard Bland Lee, [19–27 December 1793]

To Richard Bland Lee1

[Philadelphia, December 19–27, 1793]

I believe it would be adviseable to confine the provision to Loan Office Certificates & final settlements. They may be thus described “Cer[ti]ficates of unsubscribed debt commonly called Loan Office Certificates, and final settlements.” With regard to Register’s Certificates as well as those issued under the Funding Act2 the existing practice of the Treasury affords the desired relief. The reason of a distinction in their favour is that the Public books are in respect to them the Evidences of the Debt and the final resort in case of Dispute, (the Certificates granted being only memorandums of what they contain) and no transfer being valid but when consummated upon the books. But in regard to the other kinds they were negotiable of course & are the titles of the holders.

As to Indents of Interest it would be best to avoid them, because they were a species of money & admit of less adequate Checks.

As to Quarter Masters Certificates &c they are but vouchers without checks which it would be dangerous to supply by other proof.

For the second clause in the bill begining “That application be made to the Secretary &c.” I would propose the following substitute viz

“That application be thereafter made to the Department of the Treasury by the person claiming such renewal producing to the same the news papers containing the advertisement aforesaid and the proofs of the destruction alleged to have happened, whereupon the Accounting Officers of the Treasury, if the proofs which shall have been produced shall appear to them sufficient, shall proceed to adjust and settle the claim of the party applying in like manner as other claims upon the UStates are now settled at the Treasury and to issue therefore certificates of the nature of those called Register’s Certificates or of those issued pursuant to the Act making provision for the Debt of the UStates, at the option of the claimant, equivalent to the certificate or certificates destroyed; but no such settlement shall be made nor certificate granted in lieu of any alleged to have been destroyed till after the   day of  3 next nor then till there shall have been an examination to ascertain whether the certificate or Certificates so alleged to have been destroyed have not been subscribed or otherwise surrendered and satisfied.”

ADf, Newberry Library, Chicago.

1On December 13, 1793, Lee was appointed to a committee to prepare a bill making provision for the renewal of destroyed certificates (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings of the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , IV, 142). The committee reported on December 27, 1793; on April 21, 1794, the President approved “An Act limiting the Time for presenting Claims for destroyed Certificates of certain Descriptions” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 353–54).

H prefaced this opinion as follows: “The foregoing are remarks by the Comptroller of the Treasury.” H is undoubtedly referring to Oliver Wolcott’s “Observations upon the Honble. Mr. Lees Letter to the Secretary of the Treasury dated the 19th. Instant (December 1793)—and the draft of a bill therewith transmitted,” which reads as follows:

“The evidences of the domestic debt of the United States, may be considered as falling under the following general descriptions.

1st. Certificates of Funded Debt, being those issued in consequence of subscriptions to the Loan proposed by the Act making provision for the debt of the United States.

2nd. Certificates of Registered Debt, being those issued at the Treasury, for claims admitted against the United States, and for Loan office and final settlement Certificates payable to bearer, which have been surrendered and cancelled.

3rd. Loan Office and Final Settlements, Certificates, and Indents of Interest, payable to bearer.

“There are a few Certificates issued by Quarter Masters and others in circulation, but it is supposed, that they do not fall within the provision contemplated by Mr. Lee, in the draft which he has exhibited.

“The first two descriptions of Certificates are passed to the credit of the owners in the public books, and are transferable, only by the Creditors or by their Attornies. The forms already instituted are such as compleatly secure the public and the creditors from loss—and it is now the practice of the Treasury to renew Certificates of said descriptions on due proof of loss, and bonds of indemnity being given; it is therefore conceived that no legislative provision is necessary in either of said cases.

“With respect to the third Class, being Loan Office and final settlement Certificates and Indents of Interest payable to bearer, there is no existing provision under which a renewal can be made—it is therefore conceived, that the provision contemplated by Mr. Lee, should be confined to those Objects.

“The mode of proof proposed in the draft of the bill is conceived to be as proper, as the nature of the case will well admit; it is however suggested, whether it would not be best to leave claims of this description, to be settled by the Auditor and Comptroller as in other cases, and whether those Officers ought not to be allowed to require such other proof, as they may judge reasonable. This provision may guard the public in some measure from the frauds, which are to be apprehended.

“If the principle of renewing certificates payable to bearer is established, it is conceived, that it will be indispensibly necessary to fix a time, after which no Certificates, except for Funded or Registered debts shall afford a claim against the public. Without some clause of limitation, the bonds of indemnification will be no effectual security to the public.” (Copy, RG 217, Oliver Wolcott’s “Explanation of Accounts, 1792–1794,” Comptroller of the Treasury, National Archives.)

2“An Act making provision for the (payment of the) Debt of the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 138–44 [August 4, 1790]).

3Spaces left blank in MS. In the margin H wrote: “The day when subscriptions to the loan cease.”

Index Entries