George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Hamilton, 8 October 1790

From Alexander Hamilton

Treasury Departmt [New York] Oct: 8th 1790.


I do myself the honor to inform you, that the result of my enquiries concerning the character of Capt: Jonathan Maltbee, is, that he is a man of fair character and an experienced & good Seaman, who might be expected to execute his duty faithfully as the Commander of a revenue Cutter.1 I do not learn however, that either he or Capt. Law are remarkable for their activity. The principal point of preference which appears to exist in regard to these two gentlemen is, that Capt. Law has had better opportunities of education than Capt. Maltbee.2

Benjamin Harrison junior Esqr. of Richmond, is the only person here,3 from whom I can obtain information concerning the two applicants for the Office of Surveyor of that port.4 He gives a decided preference to Mr Hague, grounded upon his personal knowledge of him, and his deportment in a similar Office under the State of Virginia. He however is of opinion, that Mr Hague would not relinquish trade for the emoluments of the post in question; The appointment of a trading person of any description, to a place in the Customs has been generally avoided, and I beg leave to observe not without sufficient reason. Mr Harrison seems to think, that Mr Rowland has not all the qualities that are to be desired in such an Officer, yet doubts whether the emoluments of the Office would induce an acceptance of it by a more suitable person. he added, that the exactness of the Collector of that District would operate to produce a conduct in Mr Rowland, which might not take place under a superior of a different character, in which opinion I concur with him. If therefore some more suitable person has not been brought before you since the date of your last communication, I humbly conceive, there is little probability, that a more eligible character will be presented to your choice.

As the papers relative to the several objects, about which your letter of the 27th ultimo instructs me to enquire, may be requisite at the time of your determination on the Cases, I transmit them in this inclosure.5 I have the honor to be with the highest respect, Sir, Your most Obedient, & most huml. Servant6

Alexander Hamilton


1For the background to the ten revenue cutters authorized by the 4 Aug. 1790 Collection Act, see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 10 Sept. 1790, n.1.

2For Jonathan Maltbie and Richard Law and their rivalry for the command of the Connecticut revenue cutter, see GW to Hamilton, 27 Sept. 1790, n.4, 6 Oct. 1790 and note 3, and 4 Nov. 1790, Hamilton to GW, 28 Oct. 1790.

3According to a 20 Aug. 1790 codicil to his 1787 will, wealthy Richmond merchant Benjamin Harrison, Jr. (1742–1799), son of the signer of the Declaration of Independence and brother of William Henry Harrison, intended to leave for New York the next day (see “Harrison of James River,” Va. Mag., description begins Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 1893–. description ends 35 [1927], 89–91).

4For John Hague, Zachariah Rowland, and the vacant surveyorship of the port of Richmond, see John Hague to GW, 10 Sept. 1790, source note and note 1, and GW to Hamilton, 27 Sept. 1790 and notes.

5The enclosed papers were probably Miller & Murray et al. to GW, 3 Sept. 1790, William Heth to GW, 13 Sept. 1790, Samuel Griffin to GW, 14 Sept. 1790, and a lost 1790 letter to David Humphreys from Thaddeus Burr (see GW to Hamilton, 20 Sept. 1790, n.1, and 27 Sept. 1790 and notes).

6GW acknowledged receipt of Hamilton’s 8 Oct. letter on 26 Oct. 1790.

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