Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Oliver Wolcott, Junior, 28 [June] 1796

From Oliver Wolcott, Junior

Phila. [June] 28 961

Dear Sir

No instructions have gone to the Collectors respecting the Entry of Prizes taken by French Privateers;2 it was expected that a general regulation would have been established by Law; since the rising of Congress3 every thing has recd. attention in the order which appeared to be most interesting—the point you mention4 was not forgotten, but it was supposed that as the Judiciary would interfere on application & as relief in this way would be most efficacious no inconvenience was to be expected. The absence of the President5 though perfectly proper, will always occasion some delay, in adjusting executive arrangements.

Though the capture of the Mt. Vernon6 is not a decided evidence that the French mean to contravene their Treaty with the U.S., yet other circumstances render it possible—a confidential character in France is therefore necessary. I do not think any of the persons mentioned by you7 would undertake the mission, some I know will not; Wm. Smith8 would go, his talents, integrity, knowledge of the affairs of the U.S. & acquaintance with the French language, (a thing important) iminently fit him for the Station—perhaps he would be unpopular in France; if so, this would be an objection. The French however are not a weak people, they know Mr. Smith to be a man of ability & respected character, & his declarations would have weight on these accounts. Will you inform me in confidence whether this appointment would in your opinion be a suitable measure under all circumstances. If not can Mr. Adams be transferred with propriety & without offence to the Portuguese government?9

I much fear that the new Stock will not sell, on the terms proposed, nor on any terms without an enormous discount, probably not in sufficient sums at more than 17/.10 Treasury drafts cannot be negotiated for the sums wanted, without a still greater loss, unless they are made payable at a short date say three or four months. This will endanger the public Credit, & affect the banks, especially that of the U.S. The consequence is, the Frigates must stop11—or the new stock must be sold on any terms. Sales of Bank Stock are strenuously urged, this idea has however been strenuously opposed by me.12 There is but one other measure which I can think of & that is, to pledge sufficient sums of the new Stock, to be sold after the expiration of six or nine months if not then redeemed. To accomplish this the aid of some of the Banks, (say that of N. York) is necessary. The Bank at Pensylvania will do nothing being as they say prohibited from lending more than 50.000 Dolls, to the U.S. in any ⟨–⟩.13 I owe the B. of N.Y. 200.000 Dolls. which they require payment of in Oct.14—this prevents me from applying to them. If the opinion of the Direction upon this or any other plan for raising money can be obtained by you, I shall be happy to receive it.

Yrs as ever

O Wolcott Jr

Colo. Hamilton

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

1Wolcott mistakenly dated this letter May 28, 1796.

3The first session of the Fourth Congress had adjourned on June 1, 1796.

5George Washington had left Philadelphia for Mount Vernon on June 13, 1796.

6See Wolcott to H, June 14, 17, 1796.

8William Loughton Smith was a Federalist member of the House of Representatives from South Carolina.

9On May 28, 1796, Washington nominated “John Quincy Adams, at present Minister resident of the United States at the Hague, to be their Minister Plenipotentiary at Lisbon.” The Senate confirmed the nomination on May 30, 1796 (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 212, 213).

10The “new Stock” had been authorized by “An Act making provision for the payment of certain Debts of the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 488–89 [May 31, 1796]). See H to Wolcott, May 30, 1796.

13Section XI of “An Act to incorporate the subscribers to the Bank of Pennsylvania” states: “No loan shall be made by the said corporation, for the use or account of the government of the United States, to an amount exceeding fifty thousand dollars …” (Pennsylvania Laws, December, 1792, Sess., Ch. CXLVII [March 30, 1793]).

14This sum was borrowed from the Bank of New York in 1794 pursuant to “An Act making further provision for the expenses attending the intercourse of the United States with foreign nations; and further to continue in force the act intituled ‘An Act providing the means of intercourse between the United States and foreign nations’” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 345 [March 20, 1794]). See H to Gulian Verplanck, September 28, 1794; H to Wolcott, September 29, 1794; Wolcott to H, October 11, 1794. In January, 1795, the Bank of New York extended the loan for eight months until October 8, 1795. See H to the Directors of the Bank of New York, January 25, 1795. The loan was subsequently renewed for another year (DS, RG 217, Miscellaneous Treasury Accounts, 1790–1894, Account No. 8297, National Archives).

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