Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Rufus King, [29 January 1796]

To Rufus King

[New York, January 29, 1796]1

My Dear Sir

If the News Papers till truth it would appear that Massachusettes has anticipated New York. But it is intended by our friends in the Legislature to give some pointed discountenance to the propositions.2 It was expected that it would have been done to day, but by the divergings of some men who seek popularity with both sides, they have gotten into an unnecessary debate upon the propositions in detail, which will lose time; but in the result a handsome majority will do right.

Laurance is hurt, & as far as I see not without some reason from particular circumstances, at being left out of the Direction of the Bank.3 It will be balm to his feelings to be put into the direction of the Office here4 & I believe it will be an improvement of the Direction to do it. I wish you would endeavour to bring it about. Speak to Bayard5 of our City and to Wharton6 of Philadelphia. This is a suggestion of my own for Laurance rather rides a high horse upon the occasion.

Yrs. truly

A Hamilton

Ruffus King Esqr.

ALS, New-York Historical Society, New York City.

1Although H did not date this letter, it is postmarked “Jan 29” and endorsed by King “Jan 1796.”

King was United States Senator from New York.

2This is a reference to the action taken by the Massachusetts legislature on a resolution adopted by the Virginia legislature on December 12, 1795. The Virginia resolution reads: “Resolved, That the Senators representing this state in the Senate of the United States, be, and they are hereby instructed, and the Representatives requested to unite their utmost exertions, to obtain in their respective Houses, the following amendments to the Constitution, viz.

“1. ‘That no treaty containing any stipulation upon the subject of the powers vested in Congress by the eighth section of the first article, shall become the supreme law of the land, until it shall have been approved in those particulars, by a majority in the House of Representatives; and, that the President, before he shall ratify any such treaty, shall submit the same to the House of Representatives.’

“2. ‘That a tribunal, other than the Senate, be instituted for the trial of impeachments.’

“3. ‘That the Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the Legislature thereof for three years, and each Senator have one vote: Immediately after they shall be assembled in consequence of the first election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three classes. The seats of the Senators of the first class shall be vacated at the expiration of the first year; the second class at the expiration of the second year; and of the third class at the expiration of the third year, so that one third may be chosen at the expiration of every year.’

“4. ‘That no person holding the office of a Judge under the United States, shall be capable of holding at the same time any other office or appointment whatever.’” (Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Richmond, on Tuesday, the Tenth Day of November, One Thousand Seven hundred and Ninety-five [Richmond, 1795], 91.)

The Virginia resolution was then sent to other states for consideration. In Massachusetts on January 19, 1796, “The Secretary having communicated to the Hon. Senate, certain Resolutions of the Legislature of Virginia, proposing amendments to the Federal Constitution, &c.… The same was read, and a meeting to commit them, being negatived, they were sent down to the House.

“Being read in the House, it was moved, that the same be committed—which motion passed in the [negative], for it 24—against it 56.

“It was then moved, that they lie on the table, which passed in the affirmative, for it 42, against it 41.” (The [Boston] Columbian Centinel, January 20, 1796.)

On January 21, 1796, Christopher Gore wrote to Rufus King: “… The disposal of the Virginia resolves, as related in the Centinel, is correct in every thing but the final vote of the House. After the question for commitment was lost, Doctr. [Charles] Jarvis moved that they might lay on the table till the answer to the Govr’s speech was reported; with great difficulty this obtained a majority of one only” (King, The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King description begins Charles R. King, ed., The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King (New York, 1894–1900). description ends , II, 55).

On January 9, 1796, Governor John Jay laid before the New York legislature a letter “from his Excellency the Governor of Virginia, together with the resolutions mentioned in it.” On March 22, 1796, the legislature adopted a resolution “That it does not appear … expedient to concur in behalf of this state in the propositions contained in the resolutions of the state of Virginia …” (Journal of the Senate of the State of New-York. At Their Nineteenth Session description begins Journal of the Senate of the State of New-York. At Their Nineteenth Session, Begun and Held at the City-Hall, of the City of New-York, on Wednesday, the Sixth of January, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety-Six (New York, 1796). description ends , 8, 30, 79–80).

3John Laurance was a member of the House of Representatives from New York from 1789 to 1793 and United States judge for the District of New York from 1794 to 1796. The “bank” to which H is referring is the Bank of the United States. Laurance was a member of the bank’s first board of directors.

4The New York branch of the Bank of the United States. Laurance was a director of this branch in 1796.

5William Bayard, a New York City merchant, was a director of the Bank of the United States.

6Isaac Wharton, a Philadelphia merchant, was a director of the Bank of the United States.

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