George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Hamilton, 2 December 1793

From Alexander Hamilton

Treasury Dept Decemr 2d 1793.

The Secretary of the Treasury on the letter from the Minister plenipotentiary of France to the Secretary of State of the 15 instant,1 respectfully makes the following report to the President of the United States.

It is true as alleged by the Minister that certain drafts of his on the Treasury have not been admitted.2

Some of them were predicated upon the fund engaged to him in November; but one of them for twenty thousand dollars was expressed to be upon the funds which should be at the disposal of France in Jany 1794.

With respect to the first kind an accidental error occasioned the temporary exclusion of some drafts, which were within the proper limit. The clerk charged with registering the bills as presented had noted one as for Forty thousand dollars, which was afterwards found to be for only fourteen thousand, whereby the fund stipulated appeared to have been exceeded, when in fact there was yet a balance. But as soon as the error was discovered, the consequences were rectified.

The draft expressed to be upon funds to be at the disposal of France in January 1794, was refused, because it was not warranted by any previous arrangement, or even notice.

The funds by arrangement put in the disposal of the Minister were definite vizt, one million and five hundred thousand livres payable on the third of September last, deducting Ninety four thousand five hundred six dollars and ten and a half cents to be paid for bills drawn by the Administration of St Domingo, and one million of livres payable on the fifth day of November following. The precision given to this arrangement will be seen by the copy of my letter to him of the 24. of July last, herewith communicated.3 no other arrangement was made.

The Minister ought not to have operated upon the accessory fund of interest, for two reasons—first, because the terms of the arrangement with him did not include it—Secondly, because it could only have been properly considered as payable of course if it had been mutually understood as absolutely becoming due, unaffected by any antecedent payment; whereas the Minister had been informed, that the advances which had been made were supposed to have exceeded the sums due, according to the stipulated course of payment.4

It need only be added that to preserve order in money transactions it is essential to proceed with regularity; that an unauthorised latitude of drawing upon the Treasury could not without impropriety & inconvenience be countenanced by it, and that it was reasonable to expect that Mr Genet, being at no greater distance than New-York, would not have undertaken to exceed the limit concerted with him without previous notice & consent.

Alexr Hamilton
Secy of the Treasy

LB, DLC:GW; LB, DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters; copy, (letterpress copy), in the writing of Thomas Jefferson, DLC: Jefferson Papers; LB, FrPMAE: Correspondence Politique, États-Unis, Supplement, vol. 20. The letterpress copy of this document is of the copy that Jefferson enclosed to Genet in his letter of 6 Dec. (see 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 , 27:487–88).

1Hamilton was referring to Edmond Genet’s second letter to Jefferson of 15 Nov., which complained that some of the drafts that he had given to suppliers were refused by the Treasury on the grounds that the funds put at his disposal in the month of November were exhausted and the budget for 1794 had not been completed (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 , 27:382).

2At this point in Jefferson’s copy and the letter-book copy at DNA, a one-sentence paragraph appears: “These Draughts were of two descriptions.”

3For Hamilton’s letter to Genet of 24 July, see Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 15:124–25. The September and November payments were the annual installments on the 1782 French loan of eighteen million livres and on the 1782 Dutch loan of ten million livres, respectively. For the deduction made for paying bills drawn by the administration of Saint Domingue, see Hamilton’s conversation with Edmond Charles Genet, 27 June 1793 (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 15:29–30).

4Hamilton’s letter to Genet of 24 July informed the French minister that according “to our view of the state of our account with France, the payments already made exceed the installments which have heretofore fallen due” (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 15:124–25).

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