Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Oliver Wolcott, Junior, 2 November 1795

From Oliver Wolcott, Junior1

Phila: Nov 2d. 1795

My Dear Sir

I enclose a statement of the Presidents account quarterly, which shews that he has not been in advance a quarters salary at any time.

You will see that the Aurora denies that the members of Congress have ever recd. monies which were not earned & refers to a Letter of mine to prove the fact.2 I never wrote a Letter on the subject except to the Speakers Muhlenbergh3 & Trumbull4 in answer to an application from them on this point Whether any advances that had been made to Members of the House of Representatives beyond their real pay had been afterwards accounted for in their subsequent accounts in a succeeding session?

To this I answered to the following effect

“It is certain that the Speakers of the House have in no instance advanced monies beyond the compensation claimed by the Members as actually due, of course it does not appear to have been designed in any case that monies advanced in one session, should be accounted for by services to be rendered in another.”

“In the accounts of the second Session, of the first Congress two errors were discovered of six Dollars each and one other of Eighty four Dollars, which sums were overpaid in consequence of miscalculations these sums were credited by the members who recd. the monies, in the succeeding session, in consequence of Notes which were placed in the Pay Books, by the Clerks who made the examination.”

“A few other errors of a trivial nature have at different times been noted as errors by the Clerks, but whether they have been explained by the members, or accounted for, does not appear from the pay Books. The foregoing three cases are all that I can find, which fall within the enquiry contained in your Letter.”

The plain meaning of my Letter is that it was not the practice to advance during a session more than was earned in that session—further I never meant or examined the books to ascertain. I shall do it now.

The reference to this Letter proves either that Muhlenbergh is party to this business or what is more likely that my Letter was lodged in the Clerks Office, & that Beckley5 & Randolph6 are the authors of this attack.

Nothing to the purpose can be gained from the accounts of the Secy of State, but you will find them enclosed.7 It is not best to use them in my opinion.

Yrs. truly.

Oliv. Wolcott Jr.

N.B. What I say of my own Letter to M & T. is for your information. I shall use the affair here.

The Clerks have disappointed me & I cannot send the Statement for the Dept. of State Salaries till tomorrow.8

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

1For background to this letter, see H to George Washington, October 26, 1795; H to Wolcott, October 26, 27, 28, 1795; and Wolcott to H, October 29, 1795.

2Wolcott is referring to the “Remarks” made by an anonymous writer on an excerpt from the [New York] American Minerva; an Evening Advertiser. The excerpt and the “Remarks” appeared in the [Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser, on November 2, 1795. The “Remarks” read in part: “It is not true, that the Members of Congress are paid any part of their compensation before it has strictly become due. For the convenience of the Treasury Department, it has been the practice at the beginning of each session to give the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate a credit at the Bank; out of which, during the course of the session, the members receive part of their compensation as they earn it, but never one cent in advance, and at the close of the session their balance is paid them, for which their receipt is preserved in the Treasury. Thus the practice of the legislature cannot be cited as an excuse for the President’s mal-conduct.

“The records can shew a letter from Mr. O. Wolcott, expressly certifying, that it was not the practice of the Members of the Legislature to draw their compensation in advance; but that the contrary practices invariably prevailed. Will the New-York paragraphist dispute the authority? If he does other testimony may be produced.”

3Frederick A. C. Muhlenberg was Speaker of the House of Representatives during the First (March 4, 1789, to March 3, 1791) and Third (March 4, 1793, to March 3, 1795) Congresses.

4Jonathan Trumbull was Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Second Congress (March 4, 1791, to March 3, 1793).

5John Beckley, clerk of the House of Representatives.

6Edmund Randolph.

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