Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Robert Troup, 11 May 1795

From Robert Troup

N York 11 May 1795

My dear friend

Mr. Burghdurf1 has paid me on acct. of your bond & mortgage 562 ²⁰⁄₁₀₀ Doll and this sum is lodged in the Bank of New York to your credit & may be drawn for whenever you think proper. I have lately recd. a bill of exchange for £100 which I am to sell & pay you the proceeds of on account of Mr. Williamson.2 Col Walker3 has paid the same sum to Mr. Harison4 but I believe he has not paid you. This sum when paid is intended as a general retainer to you in behalf of Mr. Williamson.5 I think his controversy about the preemption line will be settled without the trial of the ejectment suits in consequence of a late act of our Legislature.6 I have been waiting for bills of exchange to rise but can sell the bill when ever you want the Money.

I have received your letter7 in answer to the one I wrote you8 some time since. I sincerely hope that we shall both save our heads and that you may by some fortunate & unexpected event acquire the means of perfect independence in spite of all your efforts to be poor. I have an interest in an event of this nature which perhaps you have forgotten. I have often said that your friends would be obliged to bury you at their own expence. For some days past I have thought my head in no small danger. Mr. Jay informed Mrs. Jay by the Allice Cap Harvey who arrived a few days ago that he could not leave England without hearing from the Government9—from which we concluded he was waiting for the ratification. Last saturday the Port Mary owned by Rob. Lenox arrived in a short passage from Liverpool10 & the Cap. says he was applied to for his cabbin for the use of Mr. Jay provided he could stay ten days longer. Not being able to wait that time he left Mr Jay and we now expect him in the first London or Bristol ship. We conjecture that Mr. Jay has heard of the new arrival of the treaty within the time expected & that he has of course determined to return without delay.11 The opposite party, except some whose minds are prejudiced to an extreme, appear to consider Mr. Jay as elected.12 Our friends have no doubt of it. If therefore he should not return in time—after the extracts we have published from his letters13—his character will be injured—mine will not be benefitted—the whole party will in some degree suffer. And I think it not unlikely that I shall be delivered over to some revolutionary tribunal.

The accounts from England are that there is certainly a French agent from the Convention now incog. in England confering with the British Ministry upon the subject of peace14—that Moderation in France is gaining strength15—and that As a decisive proof of the ascendency of this spirit (what an age do we live in!) Barrere and his associates will certainly be guillotined16—that Royalty begins to be openly advocated in France—and the people are squinting strongly at the Constitution of 1791.

God bless you

Rob Troup

A Hamilton Esq

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Conradt Burghduff. See Troup to H, March 31, 1795.

2Charles Williamson. See Troup to H, March 31, 1795, note 3.

4Richard Harison, United States attorney for the District of New York.

5On May 13, 1795, Troup wrote to Williamson: “Before Mr. Hamilton left public life I wrote him a letter in your behalf and begged him to consider himself as one of your counsel—and assured him that upon his coming here he should receive the same fee Mr. Harison charged—which was 250 dollars. The moment he came to this City I waited upon him & begged his answer. His reply was that he would serve you with the greatest pleasure. After this I considered the fee as honorably due & expected Col Walker would have made arrangements to pay it. This he has not done though he has paid Mr. Harison’s. As soon therefore as I received your bill for 50 guineas I informed Mr Hamilton that I was in cash for his fee from you & that he might draw upon me for it immediately …” (ALS, Rochester Public Library, Rochester, New York). Troup’s letter to H has not been found.

On the basis of Troup’s letter to Williamson, Helen I. Cowan is mistaken in stating that H declined to serve as Williamson’s counsel (Cowan, Charles Williamson, Genesee Promoter: Friend of Anglo-American Rapprochement [Rochester, 1941], 184).

Troup first offered H the retainer on January 6, 1795 (“Memoranda of Retainers,” H’s Law Register, 1795–1804 [D, partially in H’s handwriting, New York Law Institute, New York City; also in Goebel, Law Practice description begins Julius Goebel, Jr., ed., The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton: Documents and Commentary (New York and London, 1964– ) description ends , forthcoming volumes]).

For an example of H’s activities as Williamson’s counsel, see H and Troup’s opinion on deeds and mortgages in Troup to Williamson, August 23, 27, 1796 (ALS, Rochester Public Library, Rochester, New York). An entry in H’s Cash Book, 1795–1804, under the date of August 22, 1796, reads: “Williamson for joint opinion with Col Troupe & in answer to —— questions arising on the mortgage act” (AD, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; also in Goebel, Law Practice description begins Julius Goebel, Jr., ed., The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton: Documents and Commentary (New York and London, 1964– ) description ends , forthcoming volumes).

6This is a reference to a complicated land dispute between John Livingston of Livingston Manor and Williamson, who was acting as agent for the Pulteney Association (see Troup to H, March 31, 1795, note 6). The land in dispute was the eighty-four thousand acre gore between the Massachusetts-New York boundary line. The survey line drawn in 1788 by Colonel Hugh Maxwell, the surveyor for Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham, substantiated Livingston’s claim. A second line drawn in 1792 by Benjamin Ellicott, the surveyor for Robert Morris, supported Williamson’s claim. In 1794, Livingston began a suit in the Court of Chancery over the land in question, and Williamson retained Troup as his counsel. Livingston hoped to discredit Morris’s survey or to prove alien ownership. In 1795, Williamson bought the lands in the gore between the two survey lines.

On April 6, 1796, the New York legislature passed “An Act supplementary to the act entitled ‘An act authorizing the Surveyor General to ascertain the Eastern Boundary line of the lands ceded by this state to the commonwealth of Massachusetts,’ and for other purposes herein mentioned.” This act reads in part: “Whereas the Surveyor General of this state hath certified unto the commissioners of the Land Office that he judges the line run by Benjamin Ellicot … hath been truly run and hath obtained from the said Benjamin Ellicot a description and map of the said line with a certificate attested by his oath that the said line run by him is to the best of his knowledge and belief truly performed” (New York Laws, 19th Sess., Ch. XLVII). For Ellicott’s survey of April 28, 1795, see Mix, Catalogue: Maps and Surveys description begins David E. E. Mix, ed., Catalogue: Maps and Surveys, in the Offices of the Secretary of State, State Engineer and Surveyor, and Comptroller, and the New York State Library (Albany, 1859). description ends , 11.

9On May 8, 1795, the New York American Minerva; An Evening Advertiser reported the arrival of the Ellice from London. On March 13, 1795, John Jay had written to his wife: “Captain Hervey of the Ellice went away last Saturday—he … has a letter for you” (ALS, Columbia University Libraries). The letter in question is dated March 6, 1795, and reads in part: “In the course of this month, towards the latter part of it I expect to receive advices respecting the Treaty, together with Instructions relative to the Conclusion of my Business here” (ALS, Columbia University Libraries).

Although Jay and Lord Grenville had signed the treaty on November 19, 1794, it was not until March 7, 1795, that Secretary of State Edmund Randolph received the first copy of the treaty to reach the United States. See Jay to H, November 19, 1794, note 1. On March 3, 1795, the day Congress adjourned, George Washington informed John Adams and the Senate “that the Senate shall be convened on Monday the 8th of June next … to receive and deliberate on such communications as shall be made to you on my part” (LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress). Until the Senate convened on June 8 and Washington submitted the treaty to it for its consideration, Washington and Randolph revealed the treaty’s contents to no other individual (Randolph, Vindication description begins [Edmund Randolph], A Vindication of Mr. Randolph’s Resignation (Philadelphia: Printed by Samuel H. Smith, No. 118, Chesnut Street, 1795). description ends , 28).

10Lenox, a native of Scotland, was a New York City merchant and land speculator. An article, dated May 11, 1796, in Dunlap and Claypoole’s [Philadelphia] American Daily Advertiser on May 13, 1796, reads: “Capt. Kennedy informs, that, Mr. Jay was in Liverpool, and that he had been on board the Port Mary, two or three days before he sailed, and expressed a strong desire that Capt. Kennedy would wait ten days, in which time he would be ready to take passage with him; but the vessel being loaded and ready for sea, it was out of his power to comply with his request. Capt. Kennedy, says, he believes Mr. Jay will come out in a new ship that was to sail in ten or twelve days after him.”

11Jay sailed from Bristol on the Severn on April 12, 1795, and arrived at New York on May 28, 1795.

12Jay was elected governor of New York in May, 1795. See Edward Jones to H, March 30, 1795, note 10.

13An item in The [New York] Daily Advertiser, April 22, 1795, reads: “To the Electors of the State of New-York. Friends and Fellow Citizens, We are informed that a report has been circulated in the state, that Mr. Jay cannot return to America, this spring, because he must wait in England, till the ratification of the treaty shall arrive there, before he can finish his mission. As this unfounded report may have an improper influence, upon many well-meaning citizens, who may believe it, we have been requested by a large meeting of Mr. Jay’s friends to collect and publish the evidence necessary to repel this suggestion. This evidence is taken from Mr. Jays own letters to his family and friends, and we pledge ourselves for the truth of the extracts.

“In a letter to his brother, an extract of which has been published by the Newspapers, Mr. Jay says, ‘he had finished the business he was sent to negociate.’ A similar declaration is made in another letter, to a friend in this city, dated Nov. 22.

“In another letter to his family, he says, ‘that the treaty being signed, his further stay was not necessary; that he exceedingly regretted, that he could not immediately return to his friends, but the season was too far advanced, as he had not health enough for a winter’s passage.’

“In a letter of Dec. 5, he says, ‘My former letters will inform you that to avoid the severities of a winter’s passage, I think it adviseable to remain here till spring. After the first of March, I think you may suspend writing to me.’

“From these extracts, which are corroborated by other letters to private friends, we may conclude, that Mr. Jay had not an idea of waiting for the ratification of the treaty. A gentleman of veracity who left London about the 12th of Feb. and arrived here a few days ago, informs that Mr. Jay was to sail in the spring. Nor can he be detained by an embargo or other contingencies which might embarrass trade; as men in public characters have a right to passports at any time and from any nation; and the rights of ministers or other public agents are always respected.

“Possibly Mr. Jay’s arrival here may be delayed longer than was expected; for all accounts from Europe agree that the winter has been uncommonly severe; and the merchants here expect their ships will be delayed, as their letters from Liverpool advise about the 20th of Feb. the London ships were confined by the ice in the Thames.

“But should Mr. Jay not arrive by the day of Election, we conceive it not mateirial, as the governor elect, does not enter on his office till the first of July; and we have the utmost certainty, that Mr. Jay is on his passage and may be speedily expected in America. We will only add that his friends here are united and firm in supporting his election. Nicholas Cruger, Robert Troup, Josiah Ogden Hoffman.

14For example, on May 27, 1795, Baron de Kutzleben wrote to Lord Grenville: “… [Mr. George Aust] did not mention anything about the negotiation with the French; but I have seen a letter from Germany in town, which absolutely states that the Landgrave of Cassell, Darmstadt, and the Duke of Würtemburg, had taken the same measures with the King of Prussia” (The Manuscripts of J. B. Fortescue, Esq., Preserved at Dropmore [Historical Manuscripts Commission, Vol. 30], III [London, 1899], 72).

15On May 11, 1795, Lord Grenville wrote to Jay: “… The dispositions of the people in France are evidently turning very fast towards the establishment of some settled state of order, which may relieve them from the miseries of their present anarchy” (Dropmore Papers, III, 69).

16Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac became a member of the French National Convention for the Hautes-Pyrenées in 1792. One of the more enthusiastic Terrorists, he joined successively in the condemnation of Louis XVI, Danton, and Robespierre. On March 2, 1795, a committee of twenty-one, which had been set up to investigate Barère and others, recommended that he be sent before the Revolutionary Tribunal. He was condemned to deportation but escaped, and after Napoleon’s coup d’état on November 9, 1799, he was granted amnesty.

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