Notes on Debates
MS (LC: Madison Papers). For a description of the manuscript of Notes on Debates, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 231–34.
Mr. Hamilton acknowledged that he began to view the obligation of the provl. Treaty in a different light and in consequence wished to vary the direction to the Commander in cheif from a positive to a preparatory one as his motion on the Journal states.1
1. The italicizing of “obligation” is in lieu of JM’s underlining of the word. In the second of his two resolutions introduced on 15 April, Alexander Hamilton had proposed that Washington “be directed to enter into the necessary arrangements” for a mutual release of prisoners of war and delivery by the British of posts still occupied by them in the United States. On that day Congress largely embodied this recommendation in its third resolution, although substituting the word “proper” for “necessary.” Giving more thought to the matter, and perhaps above all to the significance of the fact that the number of prisoners of war held by the Americans far exceeded those held by the British, Hamilton remarked in a letter to Washington on 15 April: “I doubt the expedience of a total restoration of prisoners ’till they are willing to fix the epochs at which they take leave of us. It will add considerably to their strength, and accidents though improbable may happen” (Syrett and Cooke, Papers of Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (15 vols. to date; New York, 1961——). description ends , III, 326). That is, Washington, by speedily releasing the prisoners, would sacrifice one of his strongest bargaining points in securing a rapid departure of the British armed forces from the United States.
In line with this reconsideration, Hamilton on 16 April apparently retrieved the manuscript of the two resolutions he had introduced on the preceding day and wrote “preparatory” above a canceled “the necessary” in his second resolution (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 242). His motion, however, could not have been to so amend that resolution, but rather to substitute “preparatory” for “the proper” in the last of the three resolutions adopted by Congress on 15 April as an approximate concurrence with what he had recommended on that day. See JM Notes, 15 April 1783, and n. 2. Congress rejected Hamilton’s motion by a tie vote (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 252).
The quotation from Hamilton’s letter of 15 April to Washington, given above, is a sufficient answer to the charge by John C. Hamilton that his father had again been aspersed by JM in the notes for 16 April. According to the son, Alexander Hamilton’s letters of late May and early June 1783 demonstrate his desire for “the immediate execution of the provisional articles.” On this score John C. Hamilton was accurate, but he apparently failed to realize that the general situation, both in reality and as viewed by his father, had changed by then (John C. Hamilton, History of the Republic, II, 530–38, 534 n.). See also Syrett and Cooke, Papers of Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (15 vols. to date; New York, 1961——). description ends , III, 367–72.