George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Hamilton, 4 June 1794

From Alexander Hamilton

Treasury Dept June 4th 1794.


Upon receipt of the communication to you from the Governor of Pennsylvania of the 18 of April last, I put that letter and the papers attending it into the hands of the Commissioner of the Revenue to examine into the suggestions made & report to me concerning them.1

The result is contained in a letter from that Officer dated the 25 of April, (which hurry of business put out of sight) and which is now communicated only for the information of the President, as the case does not seem to require any particular reply to the Governor; nor any act upon the subject—and the exhibition to him of the picture, which I believe is justly drawn of the conduct of Mr Addison & others, would perhaps only excite useless irritation.2

The removal of either of the officers objected to, after the persecution they have suffered and the perseverance they have displayed, would be a hazardous step—and a suspicion is warranted by the conduct of the parties that it may have been recommended with an insidious view.3 Experience however may better explain in a little time whether any concession on that point will be expedient—in which case some means of indemnifying the officer or officers who should be removed would be demanded both by justice & policy. With perfect respect &c.

Alexander Hamilton


1Hamilton was responding to GW’s third letter to him of 29 May. Thomas Mifflin’s letter to GW of 18 April had been sent to Hamilton in a letter from GW’s secretary Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., of 19 April. On that same date Hamilton referred Mifflin’s letter to Tench Coxe for a report (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 16:296).

2Coxe’s reply to Hamilton of 25 April has not been identified. It probably, however, enclosed George Clymer’s letter to Coxe of 21 April, which reported on Alexander Addison’s claim that the collection of the excise tax "seemd to be intrusted to men without spirit or discretion, and in whose principles the people have no confidence" (Addison to Mifflin, 31 March, extract enclosed with Mifflin to GW, 18 April, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Clymer dismissed that charge as "utterly unfounded," especially in the cases of John Nevill and Robert Johnson, and continued with criticism of Addison: "he had condemned the law, as bearing unequally, and oppressively upon them, and invited their opposition to it—Being thus warranted in an opinion of its odious nature, by an authority he must think reputable in their eyes, did he seriously believe that their resistance to it would not partake of the popular character? that it would be confined to any constitutional channel, and not run over in every wild and lawless direction!" (CtHi: Oliver Wolcott, Jr., Papers).

3Hamilton was referring to collectors of excise Robert Johnson and Benjamin Wells, criticized in Addison’s letter to Mifflin of 12 May (see Mifflin to GW, 27 May, enclosure). For the persecution suffered by the two men, see GW’s proclamation of 24 Feb. and Hamilton’s report to GW of 5 August.

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