Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to David A. Ogden, 20 February 1800

To David A. Ogden1

N York 20 Feby. 1800

Dr. Sir!

I find that Major Hoops2 is very disagreeably entangled on the Subject of the boundage to the Sheriff3 and that without Speedy Succours his delicacy will be not a little exposed.

I am clearly of Opinion that he became by the ultimate Agreement the Agent of all the parties—and that all are in good faith bound to indemnify him on Accounts of Acts relative to the common Interest. What was done was no doubt necessary and proper and Conducive to the Advantage of all the parties. And it Seems to me with a View to future Contingencies, Very important for the Holld Co, by a liberal Conduct towards those who Serve them in any way, to promote a disposition to Serve them and a Confidence in their liberality.

Upon this General reasoning and Considering the Smallness of the sum, I think it will be expedient if you can, to Come to the aid of Major Hoops by an advance of the Money on account of all Concerned. In proportion to Mr Church’s4 Interest, I undertake that he Will contribute.

With Esteem and regard   Yr Obedt. Sert.

A Hamilton

Two copies, Gemeentearchief Amsterdam, Holland Land Company. These documents were transferred in 1964 from the Nederlandsch Economisch-Historisch Archief, Amsterdam.

1Ogden, a New York City lawyer, and H were both attorneys for the six Dutch banking firms which had formed the Holland Land Company on February 13, 1796.

For background to this letter and for other relevant documents, see the forthcoming Goebel, Law Practice description begins Julius Goebel, Jr., ed., The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton: Documents and Commentary (New York and London, 1964– ). description ends , III.

2When this letter was written, Hoops, a veteran of the American Revolution, was a major in the Second Regiment of Artillerists and Engineers. During the seventeen-nineties he had conducted several land surveys in western New York for Robert Morris. After Morris had been imprisoned for debt in February, 1798, Gouverneur Morris employed Hoops as agent in his efforts to secure a settlement for Robert Morris’s wife, Mary. For Robert Morris’s land speculations, see the introductory note to H to Morris, March 18, 1795; the introductory note to Morris to H, June 7, 1795; the introductory note to Morris to H, April 27, 1796; Morris to H, December 31, 1796.

3The copyist made an error. The letter should read “poundage to the Sheriff.” Black defines poundage as “An allowance to the sheriff of so much in the pound upon the amount levied under an execution” (Henry Campbell Black, Black’s Law Dictionary: Definitions of the Terms and Phrases of American and English Jurisprudence, Ancient and Modern [St. Paul, Minnesota, 1951], 1332).

On February 6, 1800, Hoops, as Gouverneur Morris’s land agent, attended a sale of Robert Morris’s lands in the Genesee country. Bushrod Washington, associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, described Hoops’s role at this sale: “Hoops … bid for the land; but being overbid and not having the means to pay for the same in case it should be struck off to him, he prevailed upon the sheriff to adjourn the sale to the 13th of May following, upon his engaging to pay the sheriff his poundage, which undertaking G. Morris, soon afterwards, on application, furnished him with the means of discharging” (Fitzsimons & Others v Ogden & Others, February 4, 1812, in William Cranch, Reports of Cases Argued and adjudged in the Supreme Court of the United States in February Term, 1812 and February Term, 1813 [Washington City: Daniel Rapine, 1816], VII, 6). On June 19, 1800, Hoops signed the following receipt: “Received of Gouverneur Morris Esqr. for Expences in attending the Sale of R. Morris’s Property in the Genesee one hundred and eighty five Dollars which with three hundred and ninety Dollars formerly paid me for Poundage I paid to the sheriff is five hundred and seventy five Dollars in full” (DS, in Gouverneur Morris’s handwriting, Columbia University Libraries).

4John B. Church. For Church’s relationship with Robert Morris, see the introductory note to Morris to H, June 7, 1795.

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