To Alexander Hamilton
Philadelphia May 7th 1793.
As I perceive there has been some mis-conception respecting the building of Vessels in our Ports wch may be converted into armed ones; and as I understand from the Attorney General there is to be a meeting today, or tomorrow of the Gentlemen on another occasion, I wish to have that part of your circular letter which respects this matter Reconsidered by them before it goes out.1
I am not disposed to adopt any measures which may check Ship-building in this Country. Nor am I satisfied that we should too promptly adopt measures—in the first instance—that is not indispensably necessary. To take fair and supportable ground I conceive to be our best policy, and is all that can be required of us by the Powers at War; leaving the rest to be managed according to circumstances and the advantages which may be derived from them. I am always Yours &ca
Quere, Is it not expedient that the District Attornies should be written to, requiring their attention to the observance of the Injunctions of the Proclamation?2
ALS, DLC: Hamilton Papers; LB, DLC:GW.
1. For Hamilton’s draft circular to the collectors of customs, and for Attorney General Edmund Randolph’s role in devising a compromise amid cabinet debate over whether the collectors would report infractions of U.S. neutrality policy to the Treasury Department or to federal district attorneys, see Hamilton to GW, 4 May (first letter), n.1. GW first indicated his reservations about this circular in his letter to Hamilton of 5 May. For the final version of the circular, dated 4 Aug., see Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 15:178–81. Cabinet members met on 7 May as the committee on the sinking fund (Jefferson’s Conversations, 6–12 May).
2. GW had issued his Neutrality Proclamation on 22 April. The cabinet eventually decided that the collectors were to report infractions of the neutrality policy to district attorneys, who would then report to Randolph (Hamilton to Randolph, 10 May, Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 14:431; JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 135).