From Timothy Pickering
Trenton Sept. 4. 1798.
I have recd. yours of yesterday. One or two new lawyers have settled in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, since I left it in 1791. I am not perfectly clear in recommending any of the old ones. I have it in my power to make enquiry which I believe may be satisfactory, and will inform you of the result. The town you refer to is not Wilkesburg or Wilkesborough, but Wilkesbarré—from Jno. Wilkes and Colo. Barre.1
I have this moment recollected a former inhabitant of Wilkesbarre now here, on whose knowledge and opinion I can rely. He thinks Putnam Catlin2 Esqr. the most eligible lawyer for such an agent as is called for. Such was my opinion also, having known him there for four or five years: but as the trust was of magnitude I wished not to rely on my own knowledge which was less intimate than that of the person of whom I have now made the enquiry. This person thinks Mr. Catlin not only the most eligible, but that his integrity may entirely be relied on & I was disposed to entertain the same opinion. I remember he always engaged with the most earnest zeal in the cause of his clients: and all his actions manifested a frankness of heart: nor has anything ever occurred, to my recollection to excite even an unfavourable suspicion of the rectitude of his character.
I am with great truth Your respectful & obt. servt.
There is a weekly mail between Philadelphia and Wilkesbarré, closing at Philaa. every Tuesday evening at sunset.
Alexander Hamilton Esqr.
☞ Reading again your letter, in which you mention the prosecution of intruders, by this agent of Mr. Church it becomes proper that I should inform you that Mr. Catlin was embarked in opinion and feelings with the Connecticut Susquehannah Company: and that he would reluctantly commence suits against the Connecticut settlers before this time, whom the Pennsylvanians call intruders.3 But my informer tells me that he believes all the lawyers in the county now set their faces against new instrusions.
If Mr. Church wants an agent in Northumberland County in Pennsylvania, I would recommend Charles Hall Esqr. a lawyer at Sunbury, who has a good and increasing reputation.
ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; copy, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.
1. John Durkee, a settler in the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania, is credited with naming Wilkes-Barre for John Wilkes, the English agitator and reformer, and for Colonel Isaac Barré. Both men had defended the American colonies in the British Parliament.
2. Putnam Catlin, a native of Litchfield, Connecticut, settled in Wilkes-Barre in 1787 and was admitted to practice before the Luzerne County courts. Catlin was not in Wilkes-Barre when Pickering wrote this letter. In 1797 he had moved to Broome County, New York, where he remained for eleven years. Putnam Catlin was the father of George Catlin, the artist who painted pictures of Indians.
3. In 1753 citizens of Connecticut formed an association called the Susquehanna Company for the purpose of settling the Wyoming Valley, which was claimed by Connecticut under her colonial charter. At the end of the French and Indian war, Connecticut settlers began moving into this area. In 1768 John Penn purchased the Wyoming Valley from the Six Nations, and for several years there was open warfare between the Connecticut settlers and the proprietary government of Pennsylvania. On December 30, 1782, a commission appointed by the Continental Congress decided against the claims of Connecticut (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIV, 31), but quarrels over land titles kept the dispute between the Connecticut settlers and the officials of Pennsylvania alive throughout the seventeen-eighties and seventeen-nineties.