Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Oliver Wolcott, Junior, 3 August 1800

To Oliver Wolcott, Junior1

New York Aug 3. 1800

Dear Sir

I have two days since written to Mr. Adams a respectful letter on the subject I heretofore mentioned to you. Occupations at Court prevented its being sooner done.

But I wait with impatience for the statement of facts which you promised me. It is plain that unless we give our reasons in some form or other—Mr. Adam’s personal friends seconded by the Jacobins will completely run us down in the public opinion. Your name in company with mine that of T Pickering &c. is in full circulation as one of the British Faction of which Mr. Adams has talked so much

I have serious thoughts of giving to the public my opinion respecting Mr. Adams with my reasons in a letter to a friend with my signature. This seems to me the most authentic way of conveying the information & best suited to the plain dealing of my character. There are however reasons against it and a very strong one is that some of the principal causes of my disapprobation proceed from yourself & other members of the Administration who would be understood to be the sources of my information whatever cover I might give the thing.

What say you to this measure? I could predicate it on the fact that I am abused by the friends of Mr. Adams who ascribe my opposition to pique & disappointment & would give it the shape of a defence of my self.

You have doubtless seen The Aurora publications of Treasury Documents & the manner in which my name is connected with it.2 These publications do harm with the ignorant who are the greatest number. I have thoughts of instituting an action of slander to be tried by a struck jury against the Editor.3 If I do it I should claim you & the Supervisors Collectors & Loan Officers of all the States from Maryland to N York inclusively as Witnesses to demonstrate completely the malice & falsity of the accusation. What think you of this? You see I am in a very belligerent humour.

But I remember that at the outset before the sums payable for interest pensions &c. were ascertained I placed the money in the hands of the paying officers upon estimate & that to avoid disappointment I made the estimates large.4 Pray look into this & see how far it may give any colour to the calumny.

Let me hear from you soon

Yrs. very truly

A Hamilton

O Wolcott Esq

ALS, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford; copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1For background to this letter, see H to Wolcott, July 1, 1800; Wolcott to H, July 7, 1800.

2On June 17, 1800, an item entitled “Public Plunder” in the [Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser reads: “We have at length so far succeeded as to possess ourselves of a long and black series of abuses and waste of the public money. We shall from day to day lay before our readers the particulars—and we shall not go upon the vague ground of supposition or of surmise, we shall assert what we have repeatedly hinted at, and which we did not before lay fully, clearly, and explicitly before the public, from a hope that the Executive would cause a speedy and effectual investigation into the conduct of certain officers of high trust.” From June 18 to July 15, 1800, a series of articles in the Aurora asserted that a number of high Government officials—especially Wolcott, Timothy Pickering, and Senator Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey, former Speaker of the House of Representatives—had used public funds for private profit. To substantiate these charges, the Aurora published Treasury Department accounts showing the appropriations to and expenditures of these individuals, as well as the amounts outstanding at the end of each year in which they held office. The Aurora maintained that large sums of money had remained unaccounted for and had been retained for personal use ([Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser, June 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 25, July 14, 15, 1800).

On July 12, 1800, an article in the Aurora concerning the United States loan offices stated: “Coeval with establishment of the Treasury Department, Alexander Hamilton, the morally chaste and virtuous head of that department, devised this system of Executive influence, and it has been faithfully and undeviatingly pursued through the course of his fiscal administration, and that of his successor in office, unto the present time.

“Three principles formed the basis of this corrupt Hamiltonian system, each of which we shall separately examine and animadvert upon:

“1st. A proscription, or disqualification of any man for public office, who should presume to think differently from the administration.

“2nd. To controul and direct the public presses, by means of government favours and contracts, for printing services—and:

“3rd. By throwing into the hands of loan officers, collectors, supervisors, and other agents and officers for the collection of the public revenue, large annual sums of money, beyond the annual amount of their expenditures, under color of legal appropriations, covered by a peculiarly devised and fitted method of keeping and stating the public accounts; thereby enabling, if so disposed, any of these officers or agents, to make Occasional uses of the monies or collections in their hands for electioneering or other party purposes, or of influencing and directing the public opinion.”

3William Duane.

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