Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Oliver Wolcott, Junior, 1 April 1799

From Oliver Wolcott, Junior

Phila. Apl. 1. 1799

Dr. Sir (Private)

I have recd. your favour of March 21st. Mr. Wharton is a young man of virtue modesty and industry—he is pliant and docile—but I have observed no indications of invention or what may be called Talents. He is what I recommended him for, a proper person to copy and assist a man who has much business—but I do not think it probable that he could perform more than what is commonly expected of a clerk.

Genl McPherson it is said will march on Wednesday.1 I am grieved when I think of the situation of the govt. An affair which ought to have been settled at once will cost much time & perhaps be so managed as to encourage other and formidable rebellions. We have no Prest. here,2 & the appearance of languor & indecision are discouraging to the friends of govt. Mr. McH—— does the best in his power—yet his operations are such as to confirm more and more a belief of utter unfitness for the situation. The President has been informed of the disorders in that Dept. yet there appears no disposition to apply any correction. Expence, discord, and a general loss of confidence, will I fear be the only fruits of the regulations adopted by Congress3 for the interior defence of the country.

In this State affairs bear an unpleasant aspect: the Governor4 is habitually intoxicated every day & most commonly every forenoon. Dallas & Judge Kean5 possess the efficient powers of the government. The former has written to several Magistrates, that setting up Liberty Poles as they are called is no Crime, if done peaceably. The Judge is in pretty open collision with the Mayor6 who is a good Man. On Saturday night Brown &c were attacked in a most violent & cruel manner in their Houses.7 The Mayor ordered the Men to Prison, but on Sunday Morning, they were enlarged by order of Judge Mc.Kean. In short Mc.Kean & Dallas mean to have it understood, that they are determined to support all the turbulent & flagitious of the Community. I am not without hopes that this violent conduct will open the eyes of the people, if it does not, we shall soon have serious trouble in Pensylvania.

You know the state of things in the Country, the public opinion, the disposition of the President. If any thing can & ought to be done, and I can be of any service I will do it, however unpleasant.

I recd. the enclosed this morning & have shewn it to Mr. Mc.Henry—he says that the men are under your Orders & will leave Windsor immediately.8

When you have read this be pleased to burn it—to prevent accidents.

I am Dr. Sir yrs. affectly

Oliv. Wolcott.

Genl. Hamilton

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Brigadier General William Macpherson was in command of the troops dispatched to suppress Fries’s Rebellion. See James McHenry to H, March 13, 15, 1799; Macpherson to H, March 25, 1799.

A veteran of the American Revolution, Macpherson had been an aide-de-camp to Benjamin Lincoln and at the end of the war had attained the rank of major. He had been appointed surveyor for the port of Philadelphia on September 11, 1789, inspector of the port on March 8, 1792, and naval officer for the District of Philadelphia on December 30, 1793 (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 25, 111, 144).

2President John Adams had left Philadelphia on March 12, 1799, for his home in Quincy, Massachusetts (Gazette of the United States, and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, March 13, 1799).

3This is a reference to “An Act for the better organizing of the Troops of the United States; and for other purposes” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, I (Boston, 1845); II (Boston, 1850). description ends 749–55 [March 3, 1799]) and “An Act giving eventual authority to the President of the United States to augment the Army” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, I (Boston, 1845); II (Boston, 1850). description ends 725–27 [March 2, 1799]).

4Thomas Mifflin.

5Alexander J. Dallas was Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Thomas McKean was Chief Justice of Pennsylvania.

6Robert Wharton.

7On March 29, 1799, one or more “United Irishmen” attacked and injured Andrew Brown, editor of the Gazette of the United States, and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser because of allegedly derogatory remarks in his paper concerning a Saint Patrick’s Day dinner (Gazette of the United States, and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, March 30, 1799; [Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser, April 1, 1799).

8This is a reference to the soldiers of the Second Regiment of Artillerists and Engineers commanded by Lieutenant Nathaniel Leonard at Windsor, Vermont. H and McHenry had made arrangements for the transfer of these soldiers for possible use in suppressing Fries’s Rebellion. See H to Leonard, March 24, 1799; H to McHenry, March 28, 1799; McHenry to H, March 30, 1799 (all listed in the appendix to Volume XXII).

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