George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Hamilton, 28 August 1790

From Alexander Hamilton

Treasury Department [New York] August 28th 1790

The Secretary of the Treasury has the honor respectfully to submit to the President of the U. States for his determination a request from the Naval Officer of the District of New York.1 The Secretary humbly remarks, that it appears desireable, as far as possible, to avoid absences of such important Officers for so long a duration, but that if the nature of the reasons should induce the President to grant the request, the naval Officer will no doubt leave his public business in the hands of a Deputy, of competent abilities, for whom he will be responsible.2

Alexander Hamilton
Secretary of the Treasury

LB, DLC:GW.

1GW had appointed his former aide-de-camp Benjamin Walker naval officer of the district of New York the previous August. Walker intended to leave for Europe, principally to visit family members in his native England whom he had not seen in twenty years, but also to inspect Joel Barlow’s proceedings in France as agent for the Scioto Company and to undertake other speculations for William Duer (see Davis, Earlier History of American Corporations, description begins Joseph Stancliffe Davis. Essays in the Earlier History of American Corporations. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1917. description ends 1:242–45, 263–64). It has been suggested that Walker, whom David Humphreys consulted about passage to England, was secretly urged by GW to make his trip as protective cover for Humphreys’s mission (Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 17:88). In any case at least one British agent reported the departure of the decoy to his superiors. Maj. George Beck with wrote from New York in October to Lord Dorchester that “Colonel Walker . . . has lately sailed hence to London; . . . his father, who is a brewer near Knight’s bridge has pressed him greatly for some years to pay him a visit, to which he has at length consented; whether Mr. Walker has any thing in charge of a public nature I do not know, but he has always been on the best terms with the President” (see Walker to GW, 1 June 1789, source note, GW to the U.S. Senate, 3 Aug. 1789; Syrett, Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 6:575, n.2, 578, 7:388).

2Tobias Lear replied for GW the same day: “altho’ it is contrary to the general sentiment and wish of the President that any Officers under the general government and particularly one of such importance as the Naval Officer of New York, shou’d be long absent from their trusts; yet in the present instance if the reasons assigned by the Naval Officer shou’d appear sufficient to the Secy of the Treasury, and a Deputy is appointed who shall be approved of by the Secretary; The President consents to the absence of the Naval Officer of New York for six months” (Lear to Hamilton, 28 Aug. 1790 [second letter], DLC:GW).

Hamilton informed Walker two weeks later “that in pursuance of authority to me for that purpose from the President of the United States, You have permission to be absent from the United States for a period not exceeding One year from the time of your departure.” Three days later, on 13 Sept. 1790, however, Hamilton informed Walker that “it has occurred to me, that the President, in his direction to me, has limited your absence to six months, which I did not recollect when I extended it to twelve. I am therefore under the necessity of retracting six, and of requesting you to consider your leave of absence as for six months from the time of your departure.” Walker wrote his superior from Paris in December 1790 that the Scioto affairs were so tangled that he had determined to remain past his leave’s expiration in March 1791 (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 7:30–31, 33–34, 388–89), and Duer wrote to Walker on 26 Mar. 1791: “I have communicated to Col Hamilton all the papers you have lately transmitted relative to the affairs of the Scioto Company[.] he has authorized me to intimate to you that if you should stay a few months beyond your leave of absence no notice will be taken of it.” Walker returned to America in late 1791 (Davis, Earlier History of American Corporations description begins Joseph Stancliffe Davis. Essays in the Earlier History of American Corporations. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1917. description ends , 1:242, n.2, 280).

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