mouth, to be under the command of Admiral Hood.
Their destination unknown.
It is also mentioned that the Dutch fleet had re-
turned to the Texel, the Duke of Leeds having pre-
viously made a journey for an interview with the
Dutch admiral. This very mysterious circumstance
is wholly unexplained.
A certain gentleman who called on me to-day, in-
formed me that a packet had sailed the i6th of Au-
gust for Quebec, in which went passenger General
Clarke. He added that the rumor in England was,
that Sir Guy Carleton was to return in her. He
made no other communication.
The inclosed letter came to hand to-day. I have had
no opportunity of making any inquiry concerning the
person recommended in it. If I can obtain any addi-
tional lights, they shall be made known without delay.
The object suggested in your letter as preparatory
to the meeting of the Legislature shall engage my
The papers of the Department of State and the
Treasury, and of the commissioners for settling ac-
counts, are on their way to Philadelphia. On the
2oth, I propose with my family to set out for the
TO JOHN JAY
,, __ _ Philadelphia, November 13, 1790.
My Dear Sir:
I enclose you copies of two resolutions which
have passed the House of Representatives of Vir-
474 Alexander Hamilton
ginia. Others had been proposed and disagreed to.
But the war was still going on. A spirited remon-
strance to Congress is talked of. This is the first
symptom of a spirit which must either be killed, or
it will kill the Constitution of the United States. I
send the resolutions to you, that it may be considered
what ought to be done. Ought not the collective
weight of the different parts of the government to be
employed in exploding the principles they contain?
This question arises out of sudden and undigested
Philadelphia, December 2, 1790.
The day before yesterday I received a letter from
Mr. Woodbury Langdon, declining the appointment
offered him. There was a letter with it for you
which I immediately forwarded.
Since that time I have conversed with Mr. Lang-
don, and have heard from Mr. Oilman; the former
is warm in his recommendation of Mr. Keith Spence ;
he states that his insolvency was owing to the loss of
a valuable ship and cargo, and was attended with
the most honorable circumstances; that an imme-
diate adjustment with the creditors took place to
their entire satisfaction ; that the deficiency was only
;^i,ooo, which he considers as remitted; that Mr.
Spence was in partnership with Mr. Sherburne; that
they have both been since in good business, and are
Â» Reprinted from Life of Jay, ii., 202.
Private Correspondence 475
now more than able to pay whatever they may owe ;
that the failure happened some years ago; that Mr.
Spence, though a native of Scotland, came early to
this country â€” is a man of education and abilities,
well known and respected â€” a firm friend to the Re-
volution and to the National Government â€” married
to a lady of New Hampshire, with whom he has
several children. He showed me a letter from Mr.
Spence, which gives a favorable impression of his
modesty and capacity.
Mr. Oilman talks of Mr. Spence as a man not gen-
erally known, and who, being by birth a foreigner,
is not as acceptable as a native to the people of that
covmtry ; that his attachment to the American cause
was rather ambiguous ; that he married the daughter
of a person who is now in office in the Island of Ber-
muda, and lately made a visit there; that his in-
solvency would throw a shade on his appointment
in the public opinion.
He, on the other hand, warmly recommended a
Mr. William Gardiner, the present Treasurer of New
Hampshire ; speaks decidedly of his good character,
and abilities as a man of business, and of his general
good standing in the State.
Mr. Langdon admits Mr. Gardiner to be a good
and a qualified man â€” says he was formerly his first
clerk, but affirms that Mr. Spence has greatly the
superiority in point of qualification â€” hints at an
arrangement between Mr. Gardiner and Mr. Gilman,
the late Loan Officer, by which Mr. Oilman expects
to succeed to the office of Treasurer, if the other ob-
tains that of Commissioner of Loans.
476 Alexander Hamilton
Thus stands my information as far as it goes; I
conjecture, on the whole, that Mr. Spence is an un-
exceptionable man, in every respect but that of his
late insolvency, and that he is probably better quali-
fied than Mr. Gardiner, or, in other words, a man of
more ability. That, nevertheless, Mr. Gardiner is
qualified for the office, and in other respects an
eligible person. Perhaps the appointment of him
will be, upon the whole, a safer one â€” freer from
hazard of imputation of any kind.
You are, I presume, not unapprised of a Langdon
and Gilman party in New Hampshire. Though it is
desirable this business should be finished, yet if it be
supposed likel}^ that the arrival of the Eastern mem-
bers will afford any new light, a few days' delay can-
not be very important.
TO WILLIAM SETON ^
Philadelphia, January i8, 1791.
My Dear Sir:
I have learnt with infinite pain the circumstances
of a new bank having started up in your city. Its
effects cannot but be in every way pernicious.
These extravagant sallies of speculation do injury to
the government and to the whole system of public
credit, by disgusting all sober citizens and giving a
wild air to every thing. 'T is impossible but that
three great banks in one city must raise such a mass
^ William Seton, a Scotchman by birth, and a well-known business
man of New York. He was Cashier of the Bank of New York, of
which Hamilton was one of the founders. See History of the Bank of
New York, by Henry W. Domett.
Private Correspondence 477
of artificial credit as must endanger every one of
them, and do harm in every view.
I sincerely hope that the Bank of New York will
listen to no coalition with this newly engendered
m.onster; a better alliance, I am strongly persuaded,
will be brought about for it, and the joint force of
two solid institutions will, without effort or violence,
remove the excrescence which has just appeared,
and which I consider as a dangerous tumor in your
political and commercial economy.
I express myself in these strong terms to you con-
fidentially, not that I have any objection to my
opinion being known as to the nature and tendency
of the thing.
Philadelphia, April lo, 1791.
Your letter of the 15th of March duly came to
hand, though not till after the arrangement for the
execution of the act mentioned in your letter had
I wish you not to consider it as a mere compliment,
when I say that the light in which your character
stands could not fail to have brought you into view
in that arrangement, and could you be minutely
acquainted with every circumstance that in the
President's mind inclined the balance a different
way, you would find no reason to be dissatisfied
with the estimation in which you have been held.
You are well aware that in a comparison of the
47^ Alexander Hamilton
pretensions of men of merit, collateral considerations
may be often justly allowed to turn the scale.
Suffer me to add that in the course of those future
opportunities which may be expected to occur, it
would give me a pleasure, as far as may be in my
power, to be instrumental in furnishing you with a
proper occasion for the exercise of your talents and
zeal in the service of the national government.
TO WASHINGTON Â»
April lo, 1791.
* * * It is to be lamented that our system is
such as still to leave the public peace of the Union
at the mercy of each State government. This is not
only the case as it regards direct interferences, but as
it regards the inability of the national government,
in many particulars, to take those direct measures
for carrying into execution its views and engage-
ments which exigencies require. For example: a
party comes from a county of Virginia into Penn-
sylvania and wantonly murders some friendly In-
dians. The national government, instead of having
power to apprehend murderers and bring them to
justice, is obliged to make a representation to that
of Pennsylvania; that of Pennsylvania again is to
make a representation to that of Virginia. And
whether the murderers shall be brought to justice
at all, must depend upon the particular policy and
energy and good disposition of two State govern-
ments and the efficacy of the provisions of their re-
^ The other parts of this letter are not to be found.
Private Correspondence 479
spective laws; and the security of other States, and
the money of all, are at the discretion of one. These
things require a remedy.
Philadelphia, April 17, 1791.
You will probably recollect that previous to your
departure from this place, anticipating the event
which has taken place with regard to the death of
Mr. Everleigh, I took the liberty to mention to you
that Mr. Wolcott, the present Auditor, would be in
every respect worthy of your consideration as his
successor in office.
Now that the event has happened, a concern as
anxious as it was natural for the success of the depart-
ment, united with a sentiment of justice towards
Mr. Wolcott, leads me to a repetition of that idea.
This gentleman's conduct in the station he now fills
has been that of an excellent officer. It has not
only been good, but distinguished. It has com-
bined all the requisites which can be desired : mod-
eration with firmness, liberality with exactness,
indefatigable industry with an accurate and sound
discernment, a thorough knowledge of business, and
a remarkable spirit of order and arrangement. In-
deed, I ought to say that I owe very much of what-
ever success may have attended the merely executive
operations of the department to Mr. Wolcott; and
I do not fear to commit myself when I add that he
possesses in an eminent degree all the qualifications
480 Alexander Hamilton
desirable in a Comptroller of the Treasury â€” that it
is scarcely possible to find a man in the United States
more competent to the duties of that station than
himself; few who could be equally so. It may be
truly said of him that he is a man of rare merit, and
I have good evidence that he has been viewed in
this light by the members of Congress extensively
from different quarters of the Union, and is so con-
sidered by all that part of the pubUc who have had
opportunities of witnessing his conduct.
The immediate relation, too, which his present
situation bears to that of Comptroller is a strong
argument in his favor. Though a regular gradation
of office is not admissible in a strict sense in regard
to offices of a civil nature, and is wholly inappHcable
to those of the first rank (such as the heads of the
great executive departments), yet a certain regard
to the relation which one situation bears to another
is consonant with the natural ideas of justice, and is
recommended by powerful considerations of policy.
The expectation of promotion in civil as in military
life is a great stimulus to virtuous exertion, while
examples of unrewarded exertion, supported by
talent and quaUfication, are proportionable discour-
agements. Where they do not produce resignations
they leave men dissatisfied, and a dissatisfied man
seldom does his duty well.
In a government hke ours, where pecuniary com-
pensations are moderate, the principle of gradual
advancement as a reward for good conduct is per-
haps more necessary to be attended to than in others
where offices are more lucrative. By due attention
Private Correspondence 481
to it it will operate as a means to secure respectable
men for offices of inferior emolument and conse-
In addition to the rest, Mr. Wolcott's experience
in this particular line pleads powerfully in his favor.
This experience may be dated back to his office of
Comptroller of the State of Connecticut, and has
been perfected by practice in his present place.
A question may perhaps, sir, arise in your mind,
whether some inconvenience may not attend his
removal from his present office. I am of opinion
that no sensible inconvenience will be felt on this
score, since it will be easy for him as Comptroller,
who is the immediate superior of the Auditor, to
form, any man of business for the office he will leave,
in a short period of time. More inconvenience
would be felt by the introduction of a Comptroller
not in the immediate train of the business.
Besides this, it may be observed that a degree of
inconvenience on this score cannot be deemed an
obstacle, but upon the principle which would bar
the progress of merit from one station to another.
On this point of inconvenience a reflection occurs,
which I think I ought not to suppress. Mr. Wolcott
is a man of sensibility, not unconscious of his own
value, and he doubtless must believe that he has
pretensions from situation to the office. Should
another be appointed, and he resign, the derange-
ment of the department would truly be distressing
to the public service.
In suggesting thus particularly the reasons which
in my mind operate in favor of Mr. Wolcott, I am
VCl.. IX.â€” 31.
482 Alexander Hamilton
influenced by information that other characters will
be brought to your view by weighty advocates, and
as I think it more than possible that Mr. Wolcott
may not be mentioned to you by any other person
than myself, I feel it a duty arising out of my situa-
tion in the department, to bear my full and explicit
testimony to his worth, confident that he will justify
by every kind of substantial merit any mark of your
approbation which he may receive.
I trust, sir, that in thus freely disclosing my sen-
timents to you, you will be persuaded that I only
yield to the suggestions of an honest zeal for the
public good, and of a firm conviction that the pros-
perity of the department under my particular care
(one so interesting to the aggregate movements of
the government) will be best promoted by trans-
ferring the present Auditor to the office of Comp-
troller of the Treasury.
Ctt> . Philadelphia, June 19, 1791.
I have been duly honored with your letter of the
13th inst., from Mount Vernon; and, according to
your desire have informed Mr. Wolcott of your in-
tention to appoint him Comptroller. This appoint-
ment gives me particular pleasure, as I am confident
it will be a great and real improvement in the state
of the Treasury Department. There can no material
inconvenience attend the postponing a decision con-
cerning the future Auditor till your arrival in this
Private Correspondence 483
I am very happy to learn that the circumstances
of your journey have been in all respects so favorable.
It has certainly been a particularly fortunate one,
and I doubt not it will have been of real utility.
There is nothing which can be said to be new here
worth communicating, except generally that all my
accoimts from Europe, both private and official,
concur in proving that the impressions now enter-
tained of our government and its affairs (I may say)
throughout that quarter of the globe, are of a nature
the most flattering and pleasing.
TO BENJAMIN GOODHUE '
Philadelphia, June 30, 1791.
My Dear Sir:
As Mr. Cone, who, I think, informed me he had a
letter from you on the same subject, undertook to
say all that could be said in relation to Mr. Gray's
affair, I permitted the hurry of business to keep me
silent. Nothing further concerning the affair has
since come to me, so that I am wholly ignorant what
turn it may have taken. It must have given you
pleasure to learn how much the Constitution of the
United States, and the measures under it, in which
you have had so considerable an agency, have con-
tributed to raise this country in the estimation of
Europe. According to the accounts received here,
the change which has been wrought in the opinion
of that part of the world respecting the United
I Benjamin Goodhue, of Salem, Member of Congress from Massa-
484 Alexander Hamilton
States is almost wonderful. The British Cabinet
wish to be thought disposed to enter into amicable
and liberal arrangements with us. They had ap-
pointed Mr. Elliott, who, on private considerations,
had declined; and it is affirmed from pretty good,
though not decisive authority, that they have sub-
stituted a Mr. Hammond, and that his arrival may â–
shortly be expected. I would not warrant the issue, [
but if some liberal arrangement with Great Britain
should ensue, it will have a prodigious effect upon
the conduct of some other parts of Europe. It is,
however, most wise for us to depend as little as pos-
sible upon European caprice, and to exert ourselves
to the utmost to unfold and improve every domestic
In all appearance, the subscriptions to the Bank
of the United States will proceed with astonishing
rapidity. It will not be surprising if a week com-
TO MRS. MARTHA WALKER
Madam : Philadelphia, July 2, 1791.
Mr. Ames ' has conveyed to me your letter of the
9th of May.
Hitherto it has not been in my power to consider
the merits of your application to Congress, but you
may be assured of its being done so as to admit of a
report at the commencement of the ensuing session.
I Fisher Ames, Member of Congress from Massachusetts, and well
known for his ability and eloquence. I can find nothing in the State
papers or in the Annals of Congress to explain Mrs. Walker or her
Private Correspondence 4^5
While I dare not encoiirage any expectation, and
while my conduct must be determined by my sense
of official propriety and duty, I may with great truth
say that I shall enter into the examination with
every prepossession which can be inspired by favor-
able impression of personal merit, and by a sym-
pathetic participation in the distresses of a lady as
deserving as unfortiinate.
TO RUFUS KING
My Dear Sir: Juiy8.i79x.
I received your letter on a certain subject, and
was obliged by it. But there was nothing practica-
ble by way of remedy.
The thing, as it has turned out, though good in the
main, has certainly some ill sides. There have also
been faults in the detail, which are not favorable to
complete satisfaction. But what shall we do? 'T is
the lot of every thing hvmian to mingle a portion of
evil with the good.
The President, as you will have seen, has re-
turned. His journey has done good, as it regards
his own impressions. He is persuaded that the
dispositions of the Southern people are good, and
that certain pictures which have been drawn have
been strongly colored by the imagination of the
We have just heard from the Westward, but of no
event of importance. Things are said to have been
in good preparation; the people of Kentucky won-
derfully pleased with the government; and Scot,
4^6 Alexander Hamilton
with a corps of ardent volunteers, on their route to
demolish every savage, man, woman, and child.
On Tuesday next I expect to leave this for New
York, with Mrs. Hamilton.
TO RUFUS KING
August 7, 1791.
Your letter of Monday evening has a good deal
tranquillized me. I am glad to learn that the mis-
chiefs from the over-use of scrip are not likely to be
I observe what you say respecting the quotation
of my opinion. I was not unaware of the delicacy
of giving any, and was sufficiently reserved until I
perceived the extreme to which bank scrip, and with
it other stock, was tending. But when I saw this I
thought it advisable to speak out â€” for a bubble
connected with any operation is, of all the enemies I
have to fear, in my judgment the most formidable;
and not only not to promote, but, as far as depends
on me, to counteract, delusions, appears to me
to be the only secure foundation on which to
stand. I thought it expedient, therefore, to risk
some thing in contributing to dissolve the charm.
But I find that I have been misquoted. Speaking of
sales on time at seventy-four shillings for 6 per cent.,
etc., I think it probable I may have intimated an
opinion that they went faster than could be sup-
ported. But it is untrue that I have given as a
standard prices below those of the market, as men-
tioned by you. On the contrary, my standard, on
Private Correspondence 487
pretty mature reflection, has been and is nearly as
For bank scrip ..... 195
6 per cents ..... 22
3 per cents . . . . .12
Deferred . . . . . 12 8
I proceed on the idea of 5 per cent, interest â€”
taking at the same time into calculation the partial
irredeemability of the 6 per cents.
I give you my standard, that you may be able if
necessary to contradict insinuations of an estima-
tion on my part short of that standard â€” for the pur-
pose of depressing the funds.
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING
Philadelphia, Aug. 13, 1791.
Some investigations in which I am engaged in-
duce a wish to be able to form as accurate an idea as
can be obtained of the usual product in proportion
to the value of cultivated lands in different parts of
the United States.
As I am persuaded no person can better assist me
in this object than yourself, I take the liberty to
ask the favor of your assistance.
It has occurred to me that if the actual product on
cultivated farms of middling quality could be ascer-
tained with tolerable precision, it might afford as
good a rule by which to judge as the nature of the
thing admits of.
488 Alexander Hamilton
With this view I have prepared a form with a num-
ber of columns under heads specifying the different
kinds of produce usual in your quarter, in order that
they may be filled in each case according to the fact
and as the nature of each head shall require.
There are besides some additional columns which
respect the total value of the farm and the different
kinds of land of which it consists.
The value of the farm must be determined not by
what it would fetch in cash on a forced or sudden
sale, but by what it would sell for at a reasonable and
usual credit, or perhaps by what the opinion of the
neighborhood would compute to be its true value.
The quantity of each kind of land must conform
to the actual quantity in cultivation at the time for
which the product is taken.
It is submitted to your judgment, according to
circumstances, whether to determine the product by
the average of a series of years, three or more, or by
what has been considered as a year of middling
The price ought to express the value of each ar-
ticle on the farm. Perhaps to determine this there
is no better rule than to deduct the expense of trans-
portation, from the price at the nearest usual market.
The high price of an extraordinary year would not
be a proper criterion ; but that which is deemed by
intelligent and reasonable farmers a good saving
If not inconvenient to you to execute my present
request, you will add to the favor by explaining in
each case the rule by which you have proceeded;
and if it would not be attended with too much
trouble, the extension of the inquiry to two or three
different farms would be satisfactory.
In a matter with which I am not very familiar, it
is possible I may have omitted circumstances of im-
portance to the object of my inquiry. The supply-
ing of such omissions will be particularly acceptable.
As whatever comes from the Treasury is apt to
be suspected of having reference to some scheme of
taxation, it is my wish that the knowledge of this
request may be confined to yourself. And I think
it not amiss to add that in truth it has not the most
remote reference to any such purpose.'
I Now first printed from the Pickering papers in the possession of the
Massachusetts Historical Society.
The form inclosed is as follows :
Value of Farm
Acres of Arable Land â€¢
Acres of Pasture Land
Acres of Meadow
Acres of Woodland
Bushels of W^heat
Bushels of Rye
Bushels of Com
Bushels of Oats
Bushels of Barley
Bushels of Buckwheat
Bushels of Potatoes
Other Roots and Vegetables in
Dozens of Poultry
Pounds of Tobacco
Cords of Wood Consimied in Fuel..
Quantity Consumed by Cattle and Poultry.
490 Alexander Hamilton
TO WILLIAM SETON
Treasury Department, Aug. 15, 1791.
Inclosed is a resolution of the Trustees of the
Sinking Fund, appropriating a certain sum for the