Hamilton, Foreign Relations: Hamilton to William Short, October 7, 1789



Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America’s first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury.

Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America’s first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury.

Alexander Hamilton: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, Volume 4


Foreign Relations, Cabinet Paper: Hamilton to William Short1, October 7, 1789


New York,

Sir:—I think it probable that you will have learnt, through other channels, before this reaches you, my appointment as Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. In this capacity the debt due from us to France, will, of course, constitute one of the objects of my attention.

Except with regard to a few laws of immediate urgency, respecting commercial imposts and navigation, the late session of Congress was wholly occupied in organizing the government. A resolution, however, passed the House of Representatives, declarative of their opinion that an adequate provision for the support of the public credit was a matter of high importance to the honor and prosperity of the United States; and instructing me to prepare and report a plan for that purpose at their next session.

In this state of things you will readily perceive that I can say nothing very precise with regard to the provision to be made for discharging the arrearages due to France. I am, however, desirous that it should be understood that proper attention will be paid to the subject on my part; and I take it for granted that the National Legislature will not fail to sanction the measures which the faith and credit of the United States require in reference to it. In addition to this I shall only remark that it would be a valuable accommodation to the government of this country if the court of France should think fit to suspend the payment of the instalments of the principal due and to become due, for five or six years from this period, on the condition of effectual arrangements for the punctual discharge of the interest which has accrued and shall accrue. But in giving this intimation it is not my intention that any request should be made to that effect. I should be glad that the thing might come about in the form of a voluntary and unsolicited offer; and that some indirect method may be taken to communicate the idea where it would be of use it should prevail. It may not be amiss that you should know that I have hinted the matter in the inclosed private letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, in forwarding which I request your particular care.

I have the honor to be, Sir,

Your obedient and humble servant,

Alexander Hamilton,

Secretary of the Treasury.

William Short, Chargé d’ Affaires,

Paris.
P. S.—Since writing the above, I have, in a private and unofficial manner, broken the matter to the Count de Moustier; and I have reason to conclude he will promote what is desired.

Notes

1 The payment of the debt to France, which is the subject of this letter and others, is so closely interwoven with our relations with that country in the troubled times which followed the establishment of the government, that all documents in regard to it seem to come most appropriately under the head of foreign relations.


Posting the entire Works of Alexander Hamilton is a project of Steven Montgomery. I’m posting these as a way to read and digest the works of Alexander Hamilton. The reader could profit by following along daily.

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