Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from William Duer, [24 December 1790]

From William Duer1

[New York, December 24th. 1790]

My dear Friend,

I learn with inexpressible Concern, that your Health still Continues in an Equivocal State: all your Friends here Entertain on this Subject the most serious Anxiety, and I am constantly required to Impress on you the necessity of some Relaxation from the laborious Duties of your Office. In the Executing this Task, I obey the Impulse of my own Heart, let me therefore Entreat in public Considerations (for private ones have I am sensible little Camparative Influence with you) to mind what the Baron w[r]ites to you on this Subject.2

I have read with Attention your Plan of the Bank; and the Report on the Duties.3 I love you too well to say what Even I think of them, less you may suspect me disposed to treat you as Public Men generally are by those who profess themselves their Friend. The Effects which have been produced by them are the best Proof of the Soundness of your Principles. The Sources of Public Confidence, are at length open’d. Wise and Solid Characters begin to Consider the Public, as the most Eligible Creditors: and if they are not checked in their first Speculations by a Fall in the Stocks, will I am certain bring forth such Resources as will Establish Public Credit on the most Solid Basis. Some objections have been stated by a few who pretend to be vested in Banking Principles, that it is not proper to Combine Specie, with Stocks at the same Rate. whilst they are below Par. But this if it is Examined has not the weight which the Objectors make; and it is in your Power to remove it altogether.

For my own Part I cannot see why the Bank Stock in your Plan should not rise at least to the same Rate with that of Ireland. The comparative Resources of this Country are greater; and the Dividend of the Bank is not more than 6 per Ct. whilst the Capital is one hundred, and Forty five. In a few days I will Enlarge on these Desultory Ideas—in the mean while, Pursue with firmness the Principles you have adopted; they will Establish your Reputation in the Happiness and Prosperity of the Country, to whom you have devoted your Services.

God bless you!

Wm. Duer

Alexander Hamilton Esqr.

ALS, Sleepy Hollow Restorations, Inc., Tarrytown, New York.

1Duer, who had known H since at least 1777 (H to Duer, May 6, 1777 [PAH description begins Harold C. Syrett, ed., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (New York and London, 1961– ). description ends , I, 246–47]), was a native of England and first visited New York in 1768, where, with the help of Philip Schuyler, he purchased timberlands in the vicinity of Saratoga, New York. He settled permanently in New York in 1773, was a delegate to the provincial Congress in 1775, a delegate to the New York Constitutional Convention in 1776, a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1777 to 1779, Secretary to the Board of Treasury from 1786 to 1789, and Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury under H from the autumn of 1789 to March or April, 1790.

Both in and out of office he participated in a variety of business enterprises and speculative ventures. For example, during and immediately after the American Revolution he in association with Daniel Parker held large and lucrative contracts for supplying the Army; he speculated in lands in several states; he was instrumental in establishing the Bank of New York in 1784 and was perhaps the leading figure in the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures and the Scioto project; and finally, he was heavily involved in speculating in securities issued by the new Federal Government. It was this last activity that paved the way for his ruin during the speculative boom in securities in the first three months of 1792. By mid-March of that year he was unable to meet his obligations to his creditors. At the same time, the Federal Government announced a suit against him for two unbalanced charges in his books as Secretary of the Board of Treasury. On March 23 he was imprisoned for debt, and he remained in debtors’ prison in New York City until his death in May, 1799.

2Baron von Steuben to H, December 16, 1790 (PAH description begins Harold C. Syrett, ed., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (New York and London, 1961– ). description ends , VII, 344–45).

3“First Report on the Further Provision Necessary for Establishing Public Credit,” December 13, 1790 (PAH description begins Harold C. Syrett, ed., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (New York and London, 1961– ). description ends , VII, 210–36); “Second Report on the Further Provision Necessary for Establishing Public Credit (Report on a National Bank),” December 13, 1790 (PAH description begins Harold C. Syrett, ed., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (New York and London, 1961– ). description ends , VII, 236–342).

Index Entries