To Oliver Wolcott, Junior1
[Albany, April 22, 1797]
I have thought it better to give you the map of the characters for the information of the President than to draw myself any definitive conclusion. It is not easy to err much in a choice among them.
I should have mentioned Col Smith9 among the most prominent but for the late unfortunate circumstances10 which attend him and which would render his appointment ineligible to such an Office at this time.
Ol Wolcott Jun Esq
ALS, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, Applications and Recommendations, 1792–1801, National Archives.
1. On the back of this letter Wolcott wrote: “Alexr. Hamilton Esq re Collectorship N York Apl. 22d. 1797. arrived after the appointment took place.”
John Lamb, who had served as collector of customs at New York City since 1789, had been dismissed because of a shortage of funds in his accounts. On April 25, 1797, John Adams “… determined to make the following appointment for which a commission is to issue, Viz Joshua Sands, Collector of New york Vice Mr. Lamb dismissed” (LC, Adams Family Papers, deposited in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston). On May 20, 1797, the Senate consented to Sands’s appointment (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 240).
2. Matthew Clarkson, a veteran of the American Revolution and a resident of New York City, had served in both the New York Assembly and Senate and had been United States marshal for the District of New York in 1791 and 1792. In February, 1795, he was appointed commissioner of loans for New York (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 170–71).
3. Gulian Verplanck was a New York City lawyer and banker.
4. Nicholas Fish, a veteran of the American Revolution and a close friend of H, had been appointed supervisor of the revenue for the District of New York by George Washington on December 30, 1793 (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 143–44).
7. Aquila Giles was marshal for the District of New York.
8. James Watson, a veteran of the American Revolution, was a New York City lawyer and merchant. He had served in the New York Assembly, and from 1796 to 1798 he was a member of the state Senate.
9. William S. Smith, a veteran of the American Revolution, was John Adams’s son-in-law. He was appointed secretary of the American legation in London in 1785. From 1789 to 1791 he was marshal of the District of New York, and from 1791 to 1792 he was supervisor of the revenue in the District of New York. He was heavily involved in land speculation in western New York.
10. H is referring to one or to both of two lawsuits in which Smith was involved. The first case concerned Smith’s financial transactions with William Ward Burrows. As security for debts which he owed Burrows, Smith in 1796 pledged property which he previously had conveyed to William Constable. Since he failed to notify Burrows of this previous conveyance, Burrows, through his lawyer Robert Troup, instituted a suit against Smith for $194,000. For Smith’s detailed defense of his conduct, see Southern History Association, Publications (1907), Vol. 11, 38–43. The second case concerned debts which Smith owed to Sir William Pulteney and William Hornby. These debts are described in Benjamin Walker to H, October 4, 1796. See also Robert Morris to H, May 10, 1796; H to Charles Williamson, May 17–30, 1796. The suit which Walker, who was agent for the Pulteney Associates, instituted against Smith for non-payment of these debts was referred to arbitrators (Walker to H, July 6, 1797), before whom a hearing was pending when this letter was written.