George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Alexander Hamilton, 13 July 1795

To Alexander Hamilton


Philadelphia 13th July 1795

My dear Sir,

I have, in the regular course of the Posts, been duly favored with your letters of the 9th, accompanying your observations on the several articles of the treaty with Great Britain, and of the 10th supplimentary thereto.1

For both, I offer you my sincere thanks, as they have afforded me great satisfaction. Altho’ it was my wish that your observations on each article should be diffusive, yet I am really ashamed when I behold the trouble it has given you, to explore, and to explain so fully as you have done, the whole of them.

The most obnoxious article (the 12th) being suspended by the Senate, there is no occasion to express any sentiment thereon.2 I wish, however, it had appeared in a different form. And altho’ it is but fair to presume that, no further advantage could have been obtained in the 3d article, yet the exclusion of the vessels belonging to the United States from all the “Sea ports, Harbours, Bays or Creeks of his Majesty”3 when theirs are admitted into all ours, to the highest Ports of entry, is not marked with reciprocity. It may be urged, & truly, that under the existing regulations of the B. government, we are not, at this time, allowed those priviledges; except when they are made to subserve their own purposes: whilst from Quebec (but how we are to get there I know not) and upwards; the lakes, and the waters on their side of the line, are open to our commerce, and that we have equal advantages in the Indian trade on both sides; except within the limits of the Hudson’s bay company.

All this looks very well on paper; but I much question whether in its operation it will not be found to work very much against us—1st What are the limits of that company? are they so defined, & so clearly understood, as that our traders when they are in the Wilderness can with precision say, thus far I may of right go, without let or hindrance? 2d admitting the fact, will they not, having possession of the trade, and the Indians being in their interest, by every artifice of their traders, prevent ours from extending themselves into the country—sharing in the profit and thereby bringing on disputes which may terminate seriously—3d Does not the hitherto (I might add present) improper interference of the British, within our territory, and the sollicitude that that government has manifested upon all occasions to get a footing on the Mississipi; and on the waters & carrying places leading thereto, evince, in a most unequivocal manner, that disputes may be expected to arise within our territory as well as their own, from the attempts of their Traders to monopolize the trade; and from the overbearing support, or underhand countenance, they will give, not only in what is right, but in what is convenient, to its views also.

My opinion of this article therefore is, that it would have been more for our peace, if not for our interest, to have restrained the traders of both nations to their own side of the line, leaving the Indians on each, to go to whichsoever their interest, convenience or inclination, might prompt them. This wd have thwarted the views of the British on the Mississipi, whilst all the doors into upper Canada, & the Western Country would have been as wide open then, as they are now made by the Treaty; and no difficulty, I am persuaded, would have been found by our people, of introducing Goods across the line, after they had got them to it, and the Posts possessed by us—if this avenue should be found the most convenient & cheapest.

I wish too the 2d Article had been more definite with respect to the terms “Precincts or Jurisdiction.” Except that the shortness of its duration for operation may afford a remedy, I should expect many disputes wd arise therefrom.

I asked, or intended to ask in my letter of the 3d whether you conceived (admitting the suspension of the 12th Article should be agreed to by the B. Government) there would be a necessity for the treaty going before the Senate again for their advice & consent? This question takes its birth from a declaration of the minority of that body, to that effect.4 With much truth & sincerity I am always Your Affectionate

Go: Washington

P.S. I was almost in the act of sending the enclosed letter to the Post Office when your favor of the 11th was put into my hands.5

Query—Whether the passage, which you have quoted from the 15th article in your letter of the above date does not mean that no prohibition shall be imposed on the exportation or importation of any articles to or from the U.S. which shall not be also imposed on the like exportation or importation to or from other foreign Nations? That is—that the U.S. shall be under no other disability, than any other foreign nations. If so, there would seem to be no priviledge granted; but only an engagement, that other nations shall not be rivals to the U.S. by being freed from the prohibition. For example—Your idea is, that whatever of its own produce Spain may carry from their territory; that is, they may reexport to England Spanish produce.6 I wish this could be made clear; for I readily see the advantage of it in one sense; tho’ I am not sure that we can bring any country, except the East Indies, into our own, the produce of it, & reexport it to England so as to make a profit from this circuitous voyage.


ALS, DLC: Alexander Hamilton Papers.

1These letters have not been found. For an explanation of Hamilton’s comments in answer to GW’s query of 3 July about the Jay Treaty, see Edmund Randolph to GW, 12 July, n.6. Hamilton’s draft of remarks on the treaty appears in Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 18:404–54.

2For the Senate resolution partially suspending Article XII, see Notes from Edmund Randolph, c.24 June, n.2.

3GW quoted from the first clause of Article III.

4GW referred to the ten senators who voted against ratification of the treaty; see Randolph to GW, 12 July, n.24.

5This letter has not been found.

6GW may have been referring to comments similar to those found in the “Supplementary remark” Hamilton added to his draft observations: “The XV article declares that there shall be no prohibition of the importation of or exportation to & from the respective territory of the contracting parties which shall not equally extend to all other nations.” Hamilton’s statement is a paraphrase of the last part of clause one in Article XV. He went on to write: “This permits us to carry to the British dominions any article the growth or manufacture of another Country which may be carried from such country to those dominions. This is a serious innovation on the British navigation act & an important privilege to us.

“It is to be remarked, however, that it does not secure to us the continuance of those discriminations in our favour compared with foreign powers which have in practice existed; but as these discriminations have always been revocable at the pleasure of the other party and are evidently founded on the interest that party has to procure the supply from us rather than from other quarters—the inference is that the security for the continuance of the advantage is as great as before.

“The obstacle to its becoming matter of stipulation was that it was deemed to be inconsistent with Treaties with other powers.

“Comparing this Treaty with the commercial Treaties heretofore entered into by the U. States the real advantage is on the side of the former.

“As to the European dominions of the different powers the footing will be essentially equal” (Df, DLC: Alexander Hamilton Papers; see also Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 18:452–54).

Index Entries