Hamilton, Foreign Relations: Hamilton to Washington, July 1790



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 Washington1, July 1790.


Memorandum of the Substance of a Communication made on Thursday, the Eighth of July, 1790, to the Subscriber, by Major Beckwith, as by Direction of Lord Dorchester

Major Beckwith began by stating that Lord Dorchester2 had directed him to make his acknowledgments for the politeness which had been shown in respect to the desire he had intimated to pass by New York in his way to England; adding that the prospect of a war between Great Britain and Spain would prevent or defer the execution of his intention in that particular. He next proceeded to observe, that Lord Dorchester had been informed of a negotiation commenced on the other side of the water, through the agency of Mr. Morris, mentioning, as the subscriber understood, principally by way of proof of Lord Dorchester’s knowledge of the transaction, that Mr. Morris had not produced any regular credentials, but merely a letter from the President directed to himself; that some delays had intervened, partly on account of Mr. Morris’ absence on a trip to Holland, as was understood; and that it was not improbable these delays and some other circumstances may have impressed Mr. Morris with an idea of backwardness on the part of the British ministry. That his lordship, however, had directed him to say that an inference of this sort would not, in his opinion, be well founded, as he had reason to believe that the cabinet of Great Britain entertained a disposition not only toward a friendly intercourse, but toward an alliance, with the United States. Major Beckwith then proceeded to speak of the particular cause of the expected rupture between Spain and Britain, observing it was one in which all commercial nations must be supposed to favor the views of Great Britain. That it was therefore presumed, should a war take place, that the United States would find it to be their interest to take part with Great Britain rather than with Spain.

Major Beckwith concluded with producing a letter, signed “Dorchester,” which letter contained ideas similar to those he had expressed, though in more guarded terms, and without any allusion to instructions from the British cabinet. This letter, it is now recollected, hints at the non-execution of the treaty of peace on our part.

On the subscriber remarking the circumstance that this letter seemed to speak only the sentiments of his lordship, Major Beckwith replied, that whatever reasons there might be for that course of proceeding in the present stage of the business, it was to be presumed that his lordship knew too well the consequence of such a step, to have taken it without a previous knowledge of the intentions of the cabinet.

Major Beckwith afterwards mentioned that Lord Dorchester had heard with great concern of some depredations committed by some Indians on our western frontier; that he wished it to be believed that nothing of this kind had received the least countenance from him; that, on the contrary, he had taken every proper opportunity of inculcating upon the Indians a pacific disposition towards us; and that, as soon as he had heard of the outrages lately committed, he had sent a message to endeavor to prevent them; that his lordship had understood that the Indians alluded to were banditti, composed chiefly or in a great part of Creeks or Cherokees, over whom he had no influence, intimating at the same time that these tribes were supposed to be in connection with the Spaniards.

He stated, in the next place, that his lordship had been informed that a Captain Hait, in our service, and a Mr. Nimble, and indeed some persons in the treaty at Fort Harman, had thrown out menaces with regard to the posts on the frontier, and had otherwise held very intemperate language; which, however, his lordship considered rather as effusions of individual feelings than as the effects of any instruction from authority.

A. Hamilton.

Notes

1 If we except the informal mission of Morris to England, this interview appears to have been the first attempt of the administration to reopen friendly relations with England.

2 Sir Guy Carleton, who had been the last English general in America. He was raised to the peerage as Lord Dorchester, and was at this time Governor of Canada.


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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