George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Hamilton, 21 September 1790

From Alexander Hamilton

New York Septemr 21st 1790.


Doctor Craigie has communicated to me, a letter from Mr Daniel Parker to him, dated, London the 12th of July, which mentions that he had just seen Mr De Miranda, who had recently conversed with the Marquis Del Campo, from whom he had learnt that the Court of Spain had acceded to our right of navigating the Mississippi.1

Col: Smith has also read to me a passage out of another letter of the 6th of July, which mentions, that orders had been sent to the Vice Roy of Mexico and the Governor of New Orleans, not to interrupt the passage of Vessels of the United States through that river.

It is probable that other communications will have ascertained to you, whether there be any and what foundation for this intelligence; but I have thought it adviseable notwithstanding to impart it to you.

The reports from Europe favour more and more the idea of peace.2 They are however not conclusive, and not entirely correspondent.

Captain Watson of the ship New York, who left London the 28th of July and Torbay the 16th or 17th of August, informs that the evening preceding her departure from Torbay, he was informed by different Officers of the fleet, that peace between Britain and Spain had taken place and had been notified by Mr Pitt, in a letter to the Lord Mayor of London, of which an account had arrived that Evening.3 He had however seen no papers containing the account. And the press of Seamen had continued down to the same evening.

On the other hand, Capt. Hunter of the ship George, who left St Andero the 8th of August, affirms that vigorous preparations for War were still going on at that port.4 I have the honor to be with the most perfect respect and truest attachment Sir Yr most obt hume servt5

Alexander Hamilton


1New York merchant and speculator Andrew Craigie (1743–1819), former apothecary general of the Continental Army, was heavily involved with William Duer in the Scioto Company and served as the American agent of Daniel Parker, a Massachusetts and New York merchant who established operations in London in 1785–86 (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 1:121–22, 140). On 22 Sept. 1790 Tobias Lear wrote to the president that earlier that day he too had seen part of Parker’s 12 July 1790 letter to Craigie and considered it “pretty direct information” (DLC:GW). Bernardo del Campo resided in London as Spain’s minister to Great Britain. In April 1790 he informed Francisco de Miranda, a former Spanish army officer, that the king would not review the 7–year-old smuggling suit still pending against him in the Council of the Indies (Robertson, Life of Miranda, description begins William Spence Robertson, The Life of Miranda. 2 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1929. description ends 1:93–94). When David Humphreys arrived in London, he wrote to Thomas Jefferson on 20 Oct. 1790 that “A report had prevailed in this place, that Spain has lately made some declaration, with respect to conceding to the United States the free Navigation of the Mississipi. I took considerable pains to trace it; and yesterday was told, Colo. Miranda had seen it in a letter to the Spanish Ambassador himself. My Informant received the intelligence from Miranda” (Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 17:605; see also Gouverneur Morris to GW, 18 Sept. 1790).

2Two days later Henry Knox also wrote to GW at Mount Vernon, noting his arrival that day at Boston where he found “authentic information . . . that the differences between England and Spain have been accomodated” and transmitting the newspaper “containing this important intelligence” (DLC:GW). News of the first real breakthrough in negotiations, the 24 July 1790 declaration and counterdeclaration, signed by the Spanish prime minister, José Moñino y Redondo, conde de Floridablanca, and Alleyne Fitzherbert, the British minister to Spain, who arrived at Madrid on 9 June 1790, reached London on 5 Aug. 1790 (see Manning, “Nootka Sound Controversy,” description begins William Ray Manning. The Nootka Sound Controversy. Washington, D.C., 1905. In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1904, pages 279–478. description ends 405–7).

3An item in the New-York Daily Gazette, 22 Sept. 1790, reads: “Last night arrived the ship New-York, Capt. Watson, in eight weeks from London, and five from Torbay: when she sailed from Torbay, war had not been declared between England and Spain.”

4The George’s 21 Sept. 1790 arrival at New York was announced in the New-York Daily Gazette on 22 Sept. 1790. St. Andero was a port in the province of Asturias in northern Spain. On 15 June 1790 the latest dispatch from Anthony Merry, the British chargé d’affaires at Madrid, arrived in London with the unsatisfactory 4 June 1790 reply from Floridablanca to the latest British demand for an apology to the insult to its flag at Nootka Sound. The next day Charles IV of Spain formally presented a request to his ally Louis XVI that France honor the 30–year-old Family Compact between the two nations. An Anglo-Spanish war remained a serious possibility throughout June and July, as memorials and propositions passed between London and Madrid while both nations continued to arm and Floridablanca awaited word from Paris. Fitzherbert reported home on 16 June 1790 that Spain had made advances toward the United States to offset the expected refusal of French assistance and that the Spanish were courting William Carmichael at Madrid (Manning, “Nootka Sound Controversy,” description begins William Ray Manning. The Nootka Sound Controversy. Washington, D.C., 1905. In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1904, pages 279–478. description ends 393–94, 398, 399, 400–403, 408–9).

5On 3 Oct. 1790 GW acknowledged having received this and Hamilton’s previous letter of 18 Sept. 1790 and thanked him for the intelligence contained therein, noting he had yet to receive confirmation of it (GW to Hamilton, 3 Oct. 1790 [second letter], LB, DLC:GW).

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