To Théophile Cazenove1
New York, January 22, 1796. “Upon Sounding the members of the Legislature, I find that great difficulties will attend a bill so formed as to confirm absolutely & without limitation, existing titles, notwithstanding the alienisation of those who may have acquired Lands2—But that a proposition to confirm them, upon the condition of a transfer, within a term of 15 a 20 years, to Citizens, or of the acquirers becoming Citizens within that term, is listened to with more favour.3 If you think this will answer the purpose of your friends I will thank you to let me Know it as soon as may be.…”
LC, Gemeentearchief Amsterdam, Holland Land Company. These documents were transferred in 1964 from the Nederlandsch Economisch-Historisch Archief, Amsterdam.
1. Cazenove, a native of Holland, conducted a brokerage and commercial business in Amsterdam from 1763 to 1788. In 1789 he was appointed by four Dutch banking houses—Peter Stadnitski and Son, Nicholaas and Jacob Van Staphorst, P. and C. Van Eeghen, and Isaac Ten Cate and Hendrick Vollenhoven—to handle their speculations in American securities. Cazenove arrived in the United States in 1790. In 1792 he persuaded his employers to invest in western lands in the United States. For that purpose the Dutch bankers were joined by Wilhem and Jan Willink and Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck. Although the banking firms did not formally organize as the Holland Land Company until February 13, 1796, Cazenove from 1792 to 1794 purchased five million acres of land in western New York and northern and western Pennsylvania for his Dutch principals.
H wrote this letter in his capacity as an attorney for the six Dutch banking firms. For the full text of this letter and for other relevant documents, see 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.
2. This is a reference to Cazenove’s efforts to secure legislation that would permit his Dutch employers to own land as aliens in New York State. For the rights of aliens to own land in New York State, see Robert Morris to H, June 7, 1795, note 37.
In 1794 the New York Senate passed, but the Assembly rejected, “An act to enable the persons therein named, being aliens, to take and hold for their own use certain lands within this state, for the purchase whereof they have already contracted and paid” (Journal of the Senate of the State of New-York, At their Seventeenth Session, begun and held at the City of Albany, the seventh day of January, 1794 [Albany, 1794], 13; Journal of the Assembly of the State of New-York, At their Seventeenth Session, begun and held at the City of Albany, the seventh day of January, 1794 [Albany, 1794], 87). The following year “Wilhem Willink and others, citizens of Amsterdam, in the Seven United Provinces,” petitioned the legislature for a law to permit them “to take and hold to their own use, lands within this State, for the purchase of which, they have already contracted and paid” (Journal of the Assembly of the State of New-York. At Their Eighteenth Session, Begun at the Town of Poughkeepsie, in the County of Dutchess, on Tuesday, The Sixth of January, 1795: And Held by Adjournment, at the City of New-York, Tuesday, January 20, 1795 [New York, 1795], 9). Although the petition was received favorably (Journal of the Assembly of the State of New-York. At Their Eighteenth Session, 61–62), “An Act to enable certain persons therein named to purchase and hold real estates within this State,” which became law on April 8, 1795, while listing the names of several aliens, did not include the names of Willink and his associates (New York Laws, 18th Sess., Ch. LXVII). By 1796 H, as well as a few other prominent New Yorkers, was assisting Cazenove in in his campaign to have the legislature grant his clients permission to hold land in New York. On April 11, 1796, “An act for the relief of Wilhem Willinck, Nicolaas Van Staphorst, Christian Van Eeghen, Hendrick Vollenhoven, Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck and Pieter Stadnitski being aliens” became law (New York Laws, 19th Sess., Ch. LVIII). This act reads: “Be it enacted by the people of the state of New-York represented in Senate and Assembly, That it shall be lawful for the persons by whom the lands for the purchase of which Wilhem Willinck, Nicolaas Van Staphorst, Christian Van Eeghen, Hendrick Vollenhoven, Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck and Pieter Stadnitski being aliens, have already contracted and paid are now held to hold the same in fee simple as trustees for the said six persons above named, their heirs and devisees, and the heirs and devisees without limitation as to the number of descents or devises in succession, although the said six persons above named and such heirs and devisees may be aliens, and the law of this state whereby aliens are disabled from taking and hold lands to their own use notwithstanding. And to the end, that the lands herein intended may be known and ascertained.
“Be it further enacted, That the persons so holding as trustees shall execute declarations in writing to be acknowledged or proved, and thereupon to be recorded in the office of the Secretary of this state within one year after the passing of this act, specifying the lands held by them as trustees of the said six persons above named, and the lands to be specified in such declarations shall be deemed to be the lands for the purchase of which the said six persons above named have already contracted and paid, and which the persons executing such declarations are hereby enabled to hold in trust as aforesaid, and such trustees shall also at the time of executing such declarations make oath that no other lands are described in the said declarations respectively than such as were conveyed to them the said trustees, and were to the best of their knowledge and belief contracted and paid for by the said persons for whom they are so trustees before the passing of this act, and if such declarations shall not be recorded within the time for that purpose above limited that then this act shall be thenceforth void.
“And be it further enacted, That whenever any person holding the said lands in trust as aforesaid shall be minded to be discharged from the trust, or whenever the persons for whom the said lands shall be so held in trust shall be minded to change the trustees or any of them then in such case and as often as the same shall from time to time happen it shall be lawful for the trustees to be discharged or so to be changed to convey over in fee simple the lands so held by them in trust to new trustees to be also citizens of the United States and to be nominated for the purpose by the persons for whom the lands shall at the time be so held in trust. But in as much as the intent of this act is only to allow to the said six persons above named their heirs and devisees in succession as above mentioned if they shall not in the mean time themselves become citizens of the United States a reasonable time to sell the said lands to citizens of the United States, and to provide a mean whereby a title may be made to the vendees, free from the plea or pretence, of alienism in the vendors. Therefore,
“Be it further enacted, and it is hereby expressly declared and provided, That such of the said lands or rents issuing out of the same as shall after the expiration of seven years from the passing of this act be held in trust for the said six persons or their legal representatives aliens, shall be forfeited to and vested in the people of this state as lands held by aliens or to the use of aliens in like manner as if this act had never passed, any thing herein contained notwithstanding.”
The following entry appears in H’s Cash Book, 1795–1804, for August 1, 1796: “Theophilus Cazenove for consultations with Judge [Egbert] Benson & Mr. [Samuel] Jones concerning a certain Act of the Legislature 20” (AD, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress).
3. An act with the provisions outlined by H became law on March 17, 1797. See “An Act providing a mean for procuring a sum to the Western Inland Lock Navigation company, to enable them more effectually and speedily to prosecute the improvements in the said navigation” (New York Laws, 20th Sess., Ch. XXXVI).
Finally, on April 2, 1798, the New York legislature passed “An Act to enable Aliens to purchase, and hold real Estates within this State, under certain restrictions therein mentioned” (New York Laws, 21st Sess., Ch. LXXII).