Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Oliver Wolcott, Junior, 14 June 1796

From Oliver Wolcott, Junior

Phila. June 14th. 1796

Dear Sir

I am oblidged to you for the intimation in your Letter of the 9th. instant. I have known for some time that Mr. Swan has misrepresented my conduct—he knows that I have more than fullfilled my Contract, that it was an express agreement, that the risque & expence of transmitting the money from Paris to Amsterdam should be borne by him—that Mr. Monroe was a mutual Agent, not the Agent of the Treasury—that we neither of us intended that Mr. Skipwith should meddle with the business—& that the opinion of the Attorney General is against throwing the loss upon the United States.

It is true that there has been great mismanagement & delay & some loss, but it is not my fault, nor am I responsible for it. I am now paying as fast as the Treasury will admit, though nothing can yet be demanded according to Contract.

The plan of the French & our Patriots begins to develope, the history of the Captives of the Mount Vernon,1 & the apology or rather hypothesis offered in Mr Baches paper2 of this morning are important facts when taken in connection with what we before knew. If more seizures shall be made, or if Mr. Adet shall not give a satisfactory explanation, I do not see but that Mr. M must be recalled & a special confidential Minister sent. A short time will enable us to judge. I shall be glad to know your opinion of what is to be done—if a Minister is sent, who should it be?

Mr. Dawson3 a confidential Clerk will be in New York a few days hence, to endeavour to ascertain whether or not Mr. Duer retains certain papers respecting the seven ranges of townships.4 I will thank you to give him such advice as may be proper.

I am ever yrs

Oliver Wolcott

A. Hamilton Esq

ALS, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford; LC, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.

1On June 13, 1796, Timothy Pickering wrote to Pierre Auguste Adet, French Minister to the United States: “The merchants of Philadelphia are extremely alarmed by the conduct of a small Privateer called the Flying Fish, bearing, it is understood, a Commission from the French republic. It is said that she has been lying in this port for some time, preparing for sea: and it seems that after inquiring and observing that valuable vessels were to sail for foreign ports, she sailed herself to the Capes of the Delaware, and not far from thence lay in wait for the vessels she had marked for her prey. Accordingly, on the 9th instant, she seized on the Ship Mount Vernon, belonging to Mr. [Thomas] Murgatroyd, a merchant of Philadelphia, within two hours after the pilot had left her, and within about six leagues of Cape Henlopen, took possession of all her papers, and forced the master, mate, and all her crew, save two men to leave her, and, under these circumstances, she was sent they know not whither!” (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 9, October 12, 1795–February 28, 1797, National Archives). For the protest of Captain George Dominick of the Mount Vernon, see Debrett, A Collection of State Papers description begins John Debrett, A Collection of State Papers, Relative to the War against France Now carrying on by Great-Britain and the several other European Powers, Containing Authentic Copies of Treaties, Conventions, Proclamations, Manifestoes, Declarations, Memorials, Remonstrances, Official Letters, Parliamentary Papers, London Gazette Accounts of the War, &c. &c. &c. Many of which have never before been published in England (London: Printed for J. Debrett, opposite Burlington House, Piccadilly, 1794–1797). description ends , V, 240–42.

2Wolcott is referring to the following letter from “A Citizen,” which was published in Benjamin Franklin Bache’s [Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser on June 14, 1796: “The late capture of the ship Mount Vernon by the French Privateer Flying Fish, has excited just alarms and apprehensions, and given much room for speculation.

“It does not appear as yet upon what grounds this capture was made, nor whether it was authorized by the constituted authorities of the French Republic. The dispositions of France towards us are sufficiently known to convince us that it is neither their wish nor their interest to engage in hostilities with this country, but from the dissatisfaction and evident disgust which they have manifested at our late treaty with Great Britain and other acts of our government, we ought to be on our guard against such measures (short of actual hostility) as their resentment might induce them to pursue. By merely enforcing their existing laws respecting the navigation of neutral vessels, they have it in their power greatly to distress the navigation, and commerce of the United States, and it seems not improbable that they may have been induced to adopt such a measure. It appears therefore highly important that those laws should be made known to our fellow citizens in order to enable them to take such precautions as will secure them from their effects, in case France should be determined to put them in force. For this reason, I take the liberty to enclose to you for publication with a few explanatory notes and observations, a translation of the Regulation of the … [26] July 1778, concerning the navigation of neutral vessels, which having never been repealed I understand is still considered as a part of the laws of France and has only been suspended in practice during the present war out of respect to neutral nations and particularly to the United States, the ally of France. I shall be happy if this publication can prove useful to the merchants of the United States, and I will rejoice if it should be the means of saving a single ship from capture or detention.”

The “Regulation Concerning the navigation of Neutral Vessels in time of war” is printed in the Aurora. General Advertiser immediately following the letter by “A Citizen.”

3Joshua Dawson.

4This is a reference to “An Act providing for the Sale of the Lands of the United States, in the territory northwest of the river Ohio, and above the mouth of Kentucky river” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 464–69 [May 18, 1796]). On August 12, 1796, Wolcott wrote to Winthrop Sargent, acting governor and secretary of the Northwest Territory, respecting “the sale of the seven ranges of Townships in the North Western Territory … fixed for … the 24th day of … October” (Carter, Territorial Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter, ed., The Territorial Papers of the United States (Washington, 1934– ). description ends , II, 566).

Index Entries