Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from John F. Hamtramck, 29 November 1799

From John F. Hamtramck

Pittsburgh November 29. 1799


I have the honor to acknowledge your letter of the 11th Inst.1 and shall pay particular attention to its contents.

The packet Boat at Detroit is a small Vessell which (I have been informed) was directed to be built by General Wilkinson as also a nother Vessell which is to be a Brigg. the Packet is begun, the Brig which is a very handsome one, was, when I was at Detroit nearly finished. there is also at Detroit a Sloop which was purchased by General Wayne in 1796. this Vessell wants considerable repairs to make her fit to sail next Spring, the Carpenters who built the Brig have been discharged and gone, so that the packet (which I think a very necessary Vessell,) will have but a bad chance of being finished this Winter, unless Carpenters can be procured at Detroit.

The Claims the United States have at Detroit are founded on the following information, to wit, that which was called the Kings domain, was deemed the property of the Crown, consequently must be now the property of the United States. if I recollect right it is forty two and one half Gunters chain2 in breadth from East to West, and extends back an unlimited distance. five chains and fifty two links of this Domain on the West side, is now claimed as part of the Estate of the late Willm McCoomb3 formerly a Merchant at Detroit—on the East of the Town and on the front of the Domain there are a number of Lots occupied by individuals who holds, (as I am informed) those places by virtue of Deeds from British Commandg. Officers, an authority I believe that none of them ever had. There is also some small Lots adjoining the Esplanade of the Fortress formerly deemed the property of the Crown, but like the front of the Domain are possessed by individuals. Hog Island which contains near 3000 Acres a little below the Town, and our side of the line (the Ship chanel being on the East side of it.) I am informed was considered the property of the Crown, and an appendage to the Garrison. being occupied for pasturing the officers Cows & Horses. is now claimed as part of the Estate of Wm McComb.

Agreeably to directions received from General Wilkinson I enclose you Copies of two Letters from me to him,4 and a Copy of the Monthly Return of the troops.

I am Sir with the greatest Respect   Your Most Obdt Servt

J F Hamtramck

Major Gen. Hamilton

LS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1The draft of this letter is dated November 9, 1799, and is printed above under that date.

2A Gunter’s chain is a surveyor’s chain four rods or sixty-six feet long. Each link in the chain is 7.92 inches long. This chain is named for Edmund Gunter, an English mathematician and astronomer who died in 1626.

3Macomb had been a partner before the American Revolution with his brother Alexander and William Edgar in the Detroit firm of Macomb, Edgar, and Macomb. The firm supplied the British Indian Department.

4In his letter to James Wilkinson of November 24, 1799, Hamtramck discussed the difficulties of organizing the troops in the West and stated that he would remain at Pittsburgh until further notice (copy, in Hamtramck’s handwriting, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress). On November 26, 1799, Hamtramck wrote to Wilkinson: “Ever since the Indians have been told that the Military have no more to do with them, they have been like a lost people. There certainly should be an Agent at Detroit …” (copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress).

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