Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Oliver Wolcott, Junior, 10 August 1795

To Oliver Wolcott, Junior

New York Aug 10. 1795

Dr Sir

I have received your letter by Saturday’s Post.1 The one you inquire about was received.

I incline very much to the opinion that this will be the proper course of conduct in reference to the order to seize our vessels with provisions (viz)2 to send to our Agent3 the Treaty ratified as advised by the Senate with this instruction—that if the order for seizing provisions is in force when he receives it he is to inform the British Ministry that he has the Treaty ratified but that he is instructed not to exchange the ratifications till that order is rescinded4 —since the UStates cannot ever give an implied sanction to the principle. At the same time a remonstrance ought to go from this Country well considered and well digested even to a word to be delivered against the principle of the order.

My reasons for this opinion are summarily these—1   that in fact we are too much interested in the exemption of provisions from seizure to give even an implied sanction to the contrary pretension.

2   that the exchange of ratifications pending such an order would give colour to an abusive construction of the XVIII th article of the Treaty5 as though it admitted of the seizure of provisions.

3   That this would give cause of umbrage to France because it would be more than merely to refrain from resisting by force an innovation injurious to her but it would be to give a sanction to it in the midst of a war.

4   It would be thus construed in our country & would destroy confidence in the Government.

5   It would scarcely be respectable to a nation to conclude a Treaty with a power to heal past controversies at the very moment of a new & existing violation of its rights.

Yrs. truly

A Hamilton

P.S. Deliver the inclosed as soon as it gets to hand.

If an order has existed & has been rescinded the remonstrance ought still to be presented after the exchange of ratification as a protest against the principle &c

Oliver Wolcott Esq

ALS, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford; copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Letter not found.

2This is a reference to a British order in council, dated April 25, 1795, calling for the British seizure of cargoes of grain on American ships bound for France. For the text of the British order in council, see Washington to H, July 7, 1795, note 3.

3Because Thomas Pinckney, the United States Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain, had left London to negotiate a treaty with Spain, William A. Deas, secretary of the legation, was made United States chargé d’affaires and temporarily became the ranking United States diplomat in London. Because George Washington decided that the task of exchanging ratifications of the Jay Treaty with the British should be entrusted to a higher ranking diplomat than Deas, John Quincy Adams, United States Minister Resident at The Hague, was selected. On August 14, 1795, Edmund Randolph wrote to Adams directing him “to repair without any delay to London” (LC, RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions of the Department of State, 1791–1801, Vol. 3, June 2, 1795–January 21, 1797, National Archives), and on August 25, 1795, Secretary of War Timothy Pickering, who had taken over the responsibilities of the office of the Secretary of State following Randolph’s resignation, sent Adams instructions for the exchange of ratifications (LC, RG 58, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions of the Department of State, 1791–1801, Vol. 3, June 2, 1795–January 21, 1797, National Archives). In addition, Deas was instructed to exchange ratifications with the British if the treaty reached London before Adams’s arrival (Pickering to Deas, August 25, 1795 [LC, RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions of the Department of State, 1791–1801, Vol. 3, June 2, 1795–January 21, 1797, National Archives]).

4At one time Washington and Secretary of State Randolph seriously considered making the ratification of the Jay Treaty contingent on the repeal of the British order in council of April 25, 1795; but when Washington did ratify the Jay Treaty on August 14, 1795, he did so without stipulating that the British rescind the order in council. See Wolcott to H, July 30, 1795, note 2.

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