Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from William Constable, [19 August 1792]

From William Constable1

[London, August 19, 1792]

Conversation between My Ld Hawkesbury & Mr. B—— a Mercht. August 19th 17922

Mr. B. I wait upon your Ldship with the Copy of a letter from the American Secretary of State respecting the Flag of that Nation, stating that all Vessells actually owned by Citizens of the States, whether registered or not, are to be Considered as equally entitled to the Protection of their Neutrality.
Ld H Mr. Jefferson is a Party Man & We know it.
Mr B. Considerable apprehensions are entertained in the City of a War with America, permit me My Lord to ask if these fears have any foundation.
Ld H Not the smallest be assured of it, as long as Washington is at the head of the Executive & the Fœderal Party prevail there will be no War with this Country as Peace is the Interest & Wish of both Govmnts.

In the Course of Conversation his Lordship mentioned that a Person of Consequence wou’d shortly go out to America. Be so good as to burn this after reading, especially as a Gentns. Name is mentioned for whose Patriotism I have a sincere respect and of whom I am convinced Ld. Hwkby entertains a very erroneous Opinion. As his Ldship is a very influential Member of the Council I thought it worthwhile to lett you know his ideas of the Parties in our Country & their Sentiments. It is unnecessary for me to sign this.

AL, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1In 1792 Constable was in England attempting to sell 1,800,000 acres of land in northern New York, which Alexander Macomb, a business associate, had purchased in 1791.

2Although Constable reported this conversation to H in 1792, it most likely took place between September 30, 1789, when Thomas Jefferson became Secretary of State, and January 28, 1791. During this period, Baron Hawkesbury, as chairman of the Board of Trade, conducted an extensive study of Anglo-American trade which included interviews with many London merchants. Hawkesbury issued his report on American trade on January 28, 1791 (copy, Add. MS 38350, 234–47, British Museum). This report was published. See “A Report of the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council, Appointed for all Matters relating to Trade and Foreign Plantations, on the Commerce and Navigation between his Majesty’s Dominions, and the Territories belonging to the United States of America,” 28th January, 1791. Reprinted by Order of The Society of Ship-owners of Great Britain. 1806. In Collection of Interesting and Important Reports and Papers on the Navigation and Trade of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Colonies in the West Indies and America. Printed by Order of The Society of Ship-owners of Great Britain (n.p., 1807), 45–154. Additional evidence to support this dating is the mention of “a Person of Consequence.” This is presumably George Hammond, British Minister to the United States, who arrived in the United States on November 1, 1791.

Above the dash after the letter “B” someone later wrote in pencil the name “Baring.” This is a reference to Sir Francis Baring, a London merchant and founder of the firm of Baring Brothers & Company, which had numerous business connections with the United States. There is no other evidence that Constable was actually referring to Baring.

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