Alexander Hamilton Papers

Notes for Speech by Samuel Miles Hopkins to the Electors of the Middle District, [17–24 April 1801]

Notes for Speech by Samuel Miles Hopkins
to the Electors of the Middle District1

[New York, April 17–24, 1801]

They call the Navy Useless.2 They detest it because it protected our Commerce against the depredations of France; because in place of resistance we did not sue for mercy & pay tribute?

Has it not protected our Commerce, saved our merchants from ruin & enabled them to send to foreign markets with advantage the productions?

Is not a navy the natural safeguard of our Country &c &

Standing Army none except &c

Answers to the Questions!

To the first   No. They only insisted on modifying it by leaving out one article which might have been construed to admit the existence of former treaties and the entanglements of the Treaty of Defensive which threatened to involve us in every maritime War of France & which abandonned our claim for 20 millions of Dollars for spoliations & they limitted the duration instead of having it a perpetual Treaty by which we shall have an opportunity of making a better bargain hereafter.3

In both these points several of the Antifœderalists concurred.4

Was not the Treaty negotiated by a Fœderal President & Fœderal Envoys!

To the second.   Some of them thought it premature to repeal till the matter was finally adjusted with France—others were of a different opinion. Hence the law was repealed though there was a majority of Fœderalists in both houses of Congress.5

3   On this point also there was some difference of opinion between the Fœderalists as to anticipating the conclusion of our contest with France. Some thought the anticipated reduction might even be an obstacle to the acceding to the Treaty as altered.

Others thought differently & the Navy was reduced to its present standard with the concurrence of the Fœderalists.6 But many of the Antifœderalists wished to destroy it altogether. Mr. J—— himself has called it a useless pageant.7 The addressers say the same thing.

4   Do not know how this fact was—But do know that there may be strong reasons for it—to induce on emergency qualified men to leave their employments & undertake the defence of their Country.8

5   No. They only opposed a partial extinction of it in favour of some states after it had been paid by others. It was not a permanent tax, & always meaning it as a temporary war resource they declined renewing it when there was a good prospect of pacification.9

6   No. A Majority of the House of Representatives voted for it—But the Senate the sheet Anchor of Fœderalism rejected the Bill & appropriated &c.10

7   No. They only preferred one of two Candidates whom the people had sent to them with equal pretensions.11 It would also be easy to prove that Mr Burr negotiated for the place that Mr E Livingston & many other Anti[s] were his partisans though a majority of the party contrad[icted] them.12

AD (incomplete), Hamilton College, Clinton, New York.

1On April 3, 1801, a Republican committee in Poughkeepsie issued an address entitled “To the Electors of the Middle District [Dutchess, Ulster, and Orange counties]” (The Albany Centinel, April 17, 1801). This address consisted of a series of statements and questions designed to embarrass the Federalists. On April 24, 1801, The Albany Centinel printed an address entitled “To the Electors of the State of New York,” signed by “A Federalist,” which was intended to refute the Republican charges. The author of this address was Samuel Miles Hopkins, a New York City Federalist and a lawyer, who was originally from Poughkeepsie and was involved in land speculation with James Watson, the Federalist candidate for lieutenant governor. Hopkins followed closely H’s suggestions in the document printed above. A typescript of Hopkin’s address, which is in the Hamilton College Library, is similar to, but longer than, the newspaper article. Hopkins’s article in The Albany Centinel, which repeats verbatim the questions asked by the Republicans, reads: “An insidious hand-bill, under the signatures of Theodorus Bailey and others, styling themselves the Republican corresponding committee of Dutchess county, imputes to the Federalists measures which they know have no existence. It is therefore proper that the imputation should be repelled.

“The committee ask triumphantly,

“‘Did not the federalists oppose the ratification of the treaty of peace with the French Republic?

“‘Did they not, after the ratification of that treaty, oppose the repeal of the non-intercourse law with that country?

“‘Did they not, in the last stage of the bill, oppose the reduction of the navy: a measure by which upwards of two millions of dollars will be saved annually to the United States?

“‘Did they not vote for giving half pay for life to such navy officers as are to be dismissed?

“‘Did they not oppose the extinction of the direct tax?

“‘Did they not vote 200,000 dollars for building a pyramid to the memory of George Washington? And lastly,

“‘Did they not seriously attempt to defeat the will of the people as declared in the Presidential election?’

“I answer—

“1st.   That some of the federal members of the Senate of the United States did oppose the unqualified ratification of the French treaty, because it contained a stipulation that we should deliver up all the armed vessels of France which had been captured by our cruizers, without any reciprocal stipulation on her part. Was this not a solid objection? But after all, was not the treaty finally ratified by the Senate? Was not the majority of that body composed of federalists? Who then ratified the treaty?

“2d.   They did oppose the immediate repeal of the non-intercourse law with France: but for what reason? Was it not because Congress having determined that measure to be a proper one as it respected our late situation in that country, it would be improper to relinquish it until a perfect pacification between us and her, by the ratification of the treaty on her part? Was this reasoning unsound? Was not this proceeding consistent with the honor and independence of our nation?

“3d.   Some federal members did oppose the immediate and total reduction of the navy: but was it not because the policy of such a step prior to the ratification of the treaty by France was deemed questionable? And did not the majority of the federal Senate ultimately adopt the measure, which the federalists are charged with opposing? Did that adoption cease to be a federal measure because the democratic minority in the Senate concurred in it?

“4th.   Several members of both parties voted for the half pay: but by whom was the provision finally rejected? Was it not by the federal majority in Congress? Why then are the federalists to be censured on account of the impropriety of a measure which they rejected?

“5th.   No, the federalists did not oppose the extinction of the direct tax—they were always averse to that tax. It was first proposed, and has been uniformly advocated, by the leading democrats in Congress; and has at last been repealed by the federalists, because they constituted the majority in both branches of the national Legislature, without whose assent the repealing act could not have passed.

“6.   No, the Senate of the U. States, which was decidedly federal, negatived the very proposition complained of. How then can the federalists be responsible for that proposition?

“7.   No, the electors of the U. States had offered two candidates to the choice of the House of Representatives. It was their constitutional right to elect one of them for President. The very term election imports that it was to be a free choice. What then is the crime imputed to the federalists in this particular? Is it not that the federal members of the House of Representatives have dared to evince such a choice?

“Fellow-Citizens, blush for the presumption of Messers. Baily and Co. in attempting to impose on your credulity, by gross misrepresentations; and teach them by your votes at the ensusing election, that you feel and will resent such a base insult to your understandings.”

2The portion of the Republican address entitled “To the Electors of the Middle District” to which H is referring attributes several national policies to the Federalist party, including “direct taxes, with a standing army, with a useless navy, and with 8 per cent loans …” (The Albany Centinel, April 17, 1801).

3For information concerning the Senate amendments to Articles II and III of the Convention of 1800 (Treaty of Môrtefontaine), see Harrison Gray Otis to H, December 17, 1800, note 5.

4See Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and all the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , X, 775–76, 777–78.

5The House rejected “A bill to continue in force an act further to suspend the commercial intercourse between the United States and France and the dependencies thereof” by a vote of fifty-nine to thirty-seven. Several Federalists voted with the majority (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and all the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , X, 1019–20). Statements made in Congress during the debate by John Rutledge, Jr., and Henry Lee illustrate contrasting Federalist views on the measure (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and all the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , X, 1011–19).

6“An Act providing for a Naval peace establishment, and for other purposes” (2 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, II (Boston, 1850). description ends 110–11 [March 3, 1801]) provided for the retirement of all but thirteen frigates. Of the thirteen frigates, six were to remain on active duty and seven were to be maintained, along with their crews, as a reserve fleet. For the vote on this bill in the House and Senate, see Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and all the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , X, 759, 1061–62.

7See Thomas Jefferson to John Vanmetre of Berkeley County, Virginia, September 4, 1800 (ALS, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress). On February 6, 1801, Jefferson’s letter appeared in The New-York Gazette & General Advertiser, and on the next day the same newspaper printed a paraphrase in a letter signed by “Cowper. A Calm Observer.”

8On February 26, 1801, an amendment to the bill creating a naval peace establishment was introduced providing “That every captain, master commandant, and lieutenant, who shall be in service at the time when the reduction of the Navy shall take place as aforesaid, while remaining unemployed, shall have and receive, during his natural life and continuance in office, one-half his monthly pay …” (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and all the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , X, 1057). The amendment was defeated by a vote of forty-eight to forty-nine with all the Federalist members present voting for the bill (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and all the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , X, 1057).

9See “An Act to lay and collect a direct tax within the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, I (Boston, 1845). description ends 597–604 [July 14, 1798]).

11For Federalist attempts to elect Aaron Burr President during the election in 1800–1801, see H to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., December 16, 1800, note 1.

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