Alexander Hamilton Papers

Report on the Petition of Daniel Parker, [13 January 1794]

Report on the Petition of Daniel Parker

[Philadelphia, January 13, 1794
Communicated on January 14, 1794]1

[To the Speaker of the House of Representatives]

The Secretary of the Treasury to whom was referred by the House of Representatives the Memorial of Daniel Parker,2 respectfully makes thereupon the following Report.

The Suggestions contained in the Memorial do not appear to be of a nature to call for a readjustment of the Account.3 The probability of peace within the Year was an event to have been calculated upon on both Sides in forming the original Contract—the loss of Vouchers is the misfortune of the party, of a nature to be equally an Obstacle in a new, as in the former Settlement.

But there are Circumstances which may render it the interest of the United States to compound the debt. It is understood that all the Debtors have been in a State of insolvency.4 It is now not certainly known what is the condition of the Memorialist. This may demand further enquiry.

In the mean time, if it should appear to Congress adviseable to vest somewhere a power to make a Composition of the debt, it would probably be conducive to the Interest of the United States.5

Which is humbly submitted.

Alexander Hamilton
Secy of the Treasury

Copy, RG 233, Reports of the Secretary of the Treasury, 1784–1795, Vol. IV, National Archives.

1Journal of the House, I description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826), I. description ends I, 39.

2On January 1, 1794, “A petition of Daniel Parker, of the county of Middlesex, in the State of Massachusetts, merchant, was presented to the House and read, praying to be relieved against the losses he sustained, under a contract entered into in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three, for the supply of the Continental army with provisions, during the whole of the said year; which contract was terminated in a few months after it was entered into, by the unexpected event of the treaty of peace, and the consequent disbanding of the army.

Ordered, That the said petition be referred to the Secretary of the Treasury, with instructions to examine the same, and report his opinion thereupon to the House.” (Journal of the House, I description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826), I. description ends I, 25.)

3The account of Daniel Parker, to which H is referring, may be found in RG 217, “Ledger 8, 1776–1789, Register’s Office,” National Archives, under the heading “William Duer and Daniel Parker, Contractors for the states of New York and New Jersey for 1783.” John Holker had become security on this contract for the firm, which was generally referred to as Daniel Parker and Company (Affidavit of Robert Morris, April 11, 1798 [DS, RG 21, Records of the Circuit Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, National Archives]).

4H was familiar with the financial problems of Daniel Parker and Company not only because of the interest of the United States Government but also because he had managed John B. Church’s business affairs in the United States. Church was one of the creditors of Daniel Parker and Company. See “Power of Attorney to John Chaloner,” November 22, 1788; H to Chaloner, November 26, 1788, December 3, 1791; Chaloner to H, 1788; H to John Holker, January 29, 1789; John Ross to H, November 29, 1791.

For H’s familiarity with some of Holker’s financial problems, see H to Chaloner, June 11, 1793. For Duer’s insolvency, see Duer to H, March 12, 1792; H to Duer, March 14, 1792.

5At the April, 1792, session of the Circuit Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the United States had filed suit against the three members of the firm for eighty thousand dollars owed to the United States on the settlement of the firm’s account (RG 21, Records of the Circuit Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, National Archives).

On January 17, 1794, “The House took into consideration the Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the memorial of Daniel Parker.… It was moved that a committee should be appointed to prepare and report a bill pursuant to the report of the Secretary of the Treasury. Some debate ensued on this motion. It was opposed on the score of precedent, and that it might be better for the United States to lose the debt than to establish a precedent which might open a door to every delinquent debtor of the United States. If the memorialist is an honest man, and has any property, he will throw himself on the justice and humanity of his country. The conduct of the petitioner, in withdrawing from his country, and his consequent deportment, were reprobated. In support of the motion, it was said that the only question was, whether the United States would insist on receiving the whole of their demand, and get nothing, or compromise their demand, and receive something. This, it was said, was not establishing a precedent: it was simply following the custom established in all similar cases by individuals. It was true that public bodies adopt generally a more rigid line of conduct, and perhaps with propriety in most cases; but, in the present instance, the memorialist is out of the country, out of the reach of the laws; he is able to pay something, but he is not willing to be divested of all his property, and be still bound to discharge a balance he never can pay.

“Mr. [John] Nicholas [of Virginia] proposed the following motion, as a substitute for the first motion, that a committee be appointed to inquire whether D. Parker & Co. have any equitable or other claims to a reduction of the balances which appear against them on the books of the Treasury of the United States, and report specially thereon to the House. This motion, after some further debate, was agreed to, and a committee of three appointed.” (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, 249.)

The committee consisted of Nicholas, Fisher Ames of Massachusetts, and Paine Wingate of New Hampshire.

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