George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Hamilton, 6 May 1790

From Alexander Hamilton

Treasury Department [New York] May 6th 1790

The Secretary of the Treasury has the honor to inform the President of the United states of America, that he has received a letter from the Governor of Virginia intimating, that it is necessary an election should be made of the particular spot upon which it may be deemed proper to erect the intended Light house on Cape Henry, after which the Cession will be completed.1

The said Secretary having heard the propriety of the place contemplated for that purpose by the State of Virginia, called in question, as being peculiarly exposed to accumulations of sand in its vicinity, begs leave to submit to the President the expediency of appointing a trusty and judicious person to view the ground & make the choice; with power to take with him one or two seafaring people, who may possess local information.

The said Secretary further informs the President, that by a letter received from Benjamin Lincoln Esquire, it appears, that the widow Thomas, charged under the state of Massachusetts with the care of the Light-house at Plymouth has a son named [ ] Thomas, who is of good character and deserves the consideration of the President as Keeper of that Light-house.2

The said Benjamin Lincoln also informs the said Secretary, that he has agreed for the supply of oil for the Light-houses in the State of Massachusetts, at the rate of one hundred & four dollars per ton, which is lower than it has of late sold for, subject to ratification by the said Secretary with the approbation of the President.

On these particulars the said Secretary request’s the order of the President.3

Copy, DLC:GW; LB, DNA: RG 26, Light House Services Correspondence (vault material).

1Gov. Beverley Randolph of Virginia wrote to Hamilton on 23 Feb. 1790 that he was prepared to execute a deed for land for a lighthouse on Cape Henry as soon as the “particular spot . . . shall be marked out” (Randolph to Hamilton, 23 Feb. 1790, Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 6:277). For the background to this transaction, see GW to Thomas Newton, Jr., 12 Oct. 1789, n.1, and Beverley Randolph to GW, 18 Dec. 1789.

2Benjamin Lincoln wrote to Hamilton on 6 April 1790 recommending “Mr. Thomas, son of the late General Thomas” for the post of lighthouse keeper at Plymouth (Lincoln to Hamilton, 6 April 1790, Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 6:355). John Thomas was subsequently appointed keeper. See also Hamilton to GW, 3 Jan. 1790, n.3.

3William Jackson replied to Hamilton on 6 May 1790: “The President of the United States authorises the Secretary of the Treasury to engage Edward Carrington Esquire to visit Cape Henry and to make a selection of the spot for the purpose of the cession within mentioned (with permission to take with him one or two seafaring persons) and to make the parties a reasonable allowance for expence and trouble out of the monies appropriated towards erecting the said Light house.

“The President also thinks fit to appoint the said [ ] Thomas, Keeper or Superintendant of the Light house at Plymouth, and authorises the said Secretary to ratify the provisional Contract for oil within mentioned” (DNA: RG 26, Lighthouse Services Correspondence).

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