Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from George Washington, [8 April 1794]

From George Washington1

[Philadelphia, April 8, 1794]


I cannot charge my memory with all the particulars, which have passed between us, relative to the disposition of the money borrowed. Your letters, however, and my answer, which you refer to in the foregoing statement,2 and have lately reminded me of,3 speak for themselves, and stand in no need of explanation.

As to verbal communications, I am satisfied, that many were made by you to me on this subject; and from my general recollection of the course of proceedings, I do not doubt, that it was substantially as you have stated it in the annexed paper,4 that I have approved of the measures, which you, from time to time, proposed to me for disposing of the Loans, upon the condition, that what was to be done by you, should be agreeable to the Laws.5

Go. Washington

LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.

3See H to Washington, March 24, April 1, 1794.

4See note 2.

5H’s political opponents considered this letter a defeat, or at least a setback, for H. For example, on April 14, 1794, James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson: “… The letter from the P. is inexpressibly mortifying to his [H’s] friends, and marks his situation to be precisely what you always described it to be” (ALS, James Madison Papers, Library of Congress). Many years after H had left the Treasury Department Edmund Randolph in two letters to Madison sought to revive some of the questions concerning Washington’s instructions to H. Randolph’s letters were prompted by a political dispute in Madison’s first administration arising from the dismissal of Secretary of State Robert Smith on April 1, 1811. Smith defended his conduct in office in a pamphlet entitled Robert Smith’s Address to the People of the United States (Baltimore, 1811), in which he raised some questions concerning the instructions which John Armstrong had received as United States Minister to France. Randolph, thinking that there was a parallel between Smith’s situation and that of H, wrote on July 9, 1811, to Madison: “Without one feeling, left of the character of a partizan, but still living to friendship, a man, whose hand is known to Mr. Madison, asks him, whether he recollects, or ever heard, that after Colo. Hamilton, had been severely pressed for a supposed misappropriation of the money, devoted by law to special purposes, he, Colo. H, produced a letter, authorizing it, signed by President Washington, while on his tour to South Carolina: that the President at first denied its existence in positive and vehement terms, not having preserved a copy of it; but that it was afterwards acknowledged by him, and registered in the treasury department, ut valeret, quantum valere potiut” (AL, James Madison Papers, Library of Congress).

Again, on August 8, 1811, Randolph wrote to Madison: “… If the analogy between the case at Philadelphia, and the more recent one at Washington, be strong enough to merit the application of it, with the following clue, a second search at the Treasury may perhaps succeed. Giles’s resolutions had been defeated before Colo. H. suggested thro’ one of his indirect conduits to the ear of the President, that during his tour in the south, he had sanctioned by two letters the measure, which was so severely criminated. He mentioned the circumstance to me, with surprise and passion, declaring in the most excluding terms, that he never did write or cause to be written, letters to that purport. Somedays afterwards, Colo. H. put them into the President’s hands, and by him they were communicated to me with an instruction, to write to Colo. H. avowing them. This I did, and it would seem impossible that upon a subject, on which his sensibility was so much kindled, that a document of justification should have been laid aside, as a private paper. These facts are most distinctly recollected” (AL, James Madison Papers, Library of Congress).

Also see the National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser Tri-Weekly, August 17, 1811.

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