To Oliver Wolcott, Junior
[New York, June 29, 1798]
I have this moment seen a Bill brought into the Senate intitled a Bill to define more particularly the crime of Treason &c.1 There are provisions in this Bill which according to a cursory view appear to me highly exceptionable & such as more than any thing else may endanger civil War. I have not time to point out my objections by this post but I will do it tomorrow. I hope sincerely the thing may not be hurried through. Let us not establish a tyranny. Energy is a very different thing from violence. If we make no false step we shall be essentially united; but if we push things to an extreme we shall then give to faction body & solidarity.
O Wolcott Esq
ALS, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford; copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
1. On June 26, 1798, James Lloyd of Maryland reported to the Senate “a bill to define more particularly, the crime of treason, and to define and punish the crime of sedition” (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 , VII, 589–90). Section 1 of this bill in its original version reads: “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the government and people of France and its colonies and dependencies, in consequence of their hostile conduct towards the United States, shall be, and they hereby are, declared to be enemies to the United States and the people thereof; and any person or persons owing allegiance to the United States, who shall adhere to the aforesaid enemies of the United States, giving them aid and comfort, within the United States or elsewhere, and shall be thereof convicted, in the manner prescribed by the first section of a statute law of the United States, entitled, ‘An act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States,’ shall suffer death” (copy, RG 46, Records of the United States Senate, Original Senate Bills, National Archives). An altered version of this bill passed the Senate on July 4, 1798 (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 , VII, 599). For the final version of this measure, see “An Act in addition to the act, entitled ‘An Act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States’” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 596–97 [July 14, 1798]).