From Alexander Hamilton
Philadelphia 22d Septr 1791.
I have received a letter from the Minister of France, of which the inclosed is a copy.1 Having full authority from you in relation to payments to France, & there being funds out of which that which will constitute the succour: requested may with propriety be made; and being fully persuaded that in so urgent & calamitous a case, you will be pleased with a ready acquiescence in what is desired. I have not hesitated to answer the Minister that the sum he asks is at his command.2 With the most perfect respect and truest attachment, I have the honor to be Sir, Your Most Obedient & Most Hble Servant3
LB, DLC:GW; copy, RG 233, Third Congress, 1793–1795, Records of Legislative Proceedings, Committee Reports and Papers.
Jean-Baptiste, chevalier de Ternant, reported to the French minister of foreign affairs on 28 Sept.–2 Oct. that M. Roustan, the agent sent by the colonists of Saint Domingue to solicit assistance from the federal government, had arrived at New London, Conn., on 20 Sept. and had been persuaded by the French vice-consul general at New York to confer with Ternant about his mission. Persuading Roustan that the French minister to the United States was the proper intermediary between the colonial assembly and the federal government, Ternant assumed control of the negotiations and approached Alexander Hamilton. Judging it essential to obtain funds in addition to those at his direct command, the French minister explained to the comte de Montmorin that he thought it would be more economical and dignified to request the necessary amount from the loan repayments due from the federal government than having to deal with private businessmen. Such an official request might also serve to test America’s good intentions toward France and would secure an immediate source of emergency funding in case of future disturbances on Saint Domingue (see Turner, Correspondence of the French Ministers, description begins Frederick J. Turner, ed. Correspondence of the French Ministers to the United States, 1791–1797. Washington, D.C., 1904. In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1903, vol. 2. description ends 45–51, especially 48).
1. The enclosure was a translation of Ternant’s letter to Alexander Hamilton, dated Philadelphia, 21 Sept.: “The distressed & very alarming situation in which the French Colony of Hispaniola is now reduced by an insurrection of the Negroes which threatens the most fatal consequences, puts me under the necessity of causing large supplies of provisions to be speedily forwarded to that Island. The means I can command, at present, being insufficient for the purpose, I have to request you will enable me, if possible, to draw on your fœderal Treasury, to an amount not exceeding forty thousand Dollars, to be accounted for in any future reimbursement of the United States to France. I hope the extreme urgency of the case, & the interest I am convinced you take in the welfare of my Nation, will induce you to grant this request, which I am going to lay immediately before the President of the United States” (DLC:GW).
2. Hamilton expressed regret to Ternant on 21 Sept. over “the calamitous event announced in your letter of this day” and reported that “the sum you desire is at your command to operate as a payment, on account of the debt due to France,” adding that it would be most convenient if the advance Ternant requested could be paid in three installments over sixty days, but that the French minister was “at liberty to draw for the whole or any part of it as fast as you may find it necessary” (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 9:220). Ternant informed Montmorin on 7 Oct. that he had yet to make use of the money put at his disposal and that Hamilton assured him that the funds would be available for as long as Ternant judged convenient (see Turner, Correspondence of the French Ministers, description begins Frederick J. Turner, ed. Correspondence of the French Ministers to the United States, 1791–1797. Washington, D.C., 1904. In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1903, vol. 2. description ends 56).
3. GW replied to Hamilton from Mount Vernon on 24 Sept.: “I have received your letter of the 22d inst: enclosing a copy of one from the French Minister; & have to inform you, that your proceedings with respect to the request of the Minister of France, meet my entire approbation” (LB, DLC:GW).