Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from John Marshall, 25 April 1796

From John Marshall1

Richmond April 25th. 96

Dear Sir

Yours of the 14th only reachd me by the mail of this evening.2 I had been informed of the temper of the house of representatives & we had promptly taken such measures as appeard to us fitted to the occasion. We coud not venture an expression of the public mind under the violent prejudices with which it had been impressd, so long as a hope remaind that the house of representatives might ultimately consult the interest or honor of the nation. But now when all hope of this has vanishd, it was deemed adviseable to make the experiment however hazardous it might be. A meeting was calld which was more numerous than I have ever seen at this place & after a very ardent & zealous discussion which consumd the day, a decided majority declard in favor of a resolution that the welfare & honor of the nation requird us to give full effect to the treaty negotiated with Britain.3

This resolution with a petition4 drawn by an original opponent of the treaty will be forwarded by the next post to Congress. The subject will probably be taken up in every county in the state or at any rate in very many of them. It is probable that a majority of the counties will avow sentiments opposd to ours—but the division of the state will appear to be much more considerable than has been stated. In some of the districts there will certainly be a majority who will concur with us & that perhaps may have some effect. As Man is a gregarious animal we shall certainly derive much aid from declarations in support of the constitution & of appropriations if such can be obtaind, from our sister States. The ground we take here is very much that of Mr. Hillhouse.5 We admit the discretionary constitutional power of the representatives on the subject of appropriations but contend that the treaty is as completely a valid & obligatory contract when negotiated by the President & ratified by him with the assent & advice of the Senate as if sanctiond by the house of representatives also under a constitution requiring such sanction. I think it woud be very difficult perhaps impossible to engage Mr. H.6 on the right side of this question. If you have any communications which might promote a concurrence of action we shall be proud to receive them.

With much respect & esteem I am dear Sir your Obedt.

J Marshall

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1This letter concerns the efforts of supporters of the Jay Treaty both in and out of the Government to secure the adoption by the House of Representatives of legislation for the implementation of that treaty. For an account of the struggle in the House over this legislation, see the introductory note to H to George Washington, March 7, 1796.

On April 30, 1796, the [Philadelphia] Gazette of the United States, under the heading “Extract of a letter from a Gentleman in Richmond (Virginia) of April 25,” printed most of the first paragraph and the first sentence of the second paragraph of Marshall’s letter to H.

2Letter not found.

3The resolution and proceedings of the meeting of April 25, 1796, in Richmond are printed in The [Richmond] Virginia Gazette, and General Advertiser, April 27, 1796. The resolution reads: “Resolved, as the opinion of this meeting, That the peace, happiness and welfare, not less than the national honor of these United States depend, in a great degree, upon giving, with good faith, full effect to the Treaty lately negotiated with Great-Britain.”

4The petition is printed in The [Richmond] Virginia Gazette, and General Advertiser, April 27, 1796. There is no record in the Journal of the House description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826). description ends that the House received this petition.

5James Hillhouse was a member of the House of Representatives from Connecticut. For the speech by Hillhouse to which Marshall is referring, see Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States: with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , V, 660–76.

6Presumably Patrick Henry.

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