Description

    Hamilton Letter Regarding the XYZ Affair

    Alexander Hamilton Autographed Letter Signed. One page with integral address cover in Hamilton's hand, 8" x 10". New York, March 23, 1798. Addressed to Secretary of State Timothy Pickering (1745-1829) in Philadelphia, this is an important letter that highlights Hamilton's views concerning Congress' call for President John Adams to release documents relating to the infamous XYZ affair with France. In full:

    My Dear Sir

    I understand that the Senate have called upon the President for papers. Nothing certainly can be more proper; and such is the universal opinion here. And it appears to me essential that so much, as possibly can, be communicated. Confidence will otherwise be wanting-and criticism will ensue which it will be difficult to repel. The observation is that Congress are called upon to discharge the most important of all their functions & that it is too much to expect that they will rely on the inference of the Executive from materials which may be put before them. The recent examples of the British King are cited. Pray let all that is possible be done.
    Yrs. truly
    A. Hamilton
    March 23. 1798

    In response to the Jay Treaty between the United States and Great Britain in 1794, the French Revolutionary government in 1796 ordered the seizure of American merchant ships. In an attempt to ease strained relations with France, President John Adams dispatched three envoys to that country. The envoys were not only prevented from meeting with the French Foreign Minister, the Marquis de Talleyrand, but were approached by three intermediaries, known as X, Y, and Z, and later a fourth, known as W, who demanded from the Unites States a low-interest loan, payment for merchant claims against the French, and a bribe to Talleyrand. After the U.S. envoys rejected these demands, Talleyrand eventually met with them, negating most of the demands but not agreeing to cease seizures of American ships. Outraged, President Adams prepared for war and anti-French Federalists called for Congress to support him.

    Pro-French Republicans in Congress, suspecting that President Adams, a Federalist, was pushing the country to war against France, demanded that the he release to the public all documents relating to the negotiations with the French government. In this letter to Pickering, Federalist Hamilton, former Secretary of the Treasury under President George Washington and no admirer of France, wished the documents to be released so that the nefarious actions of the French government would be known by the public. Secretary of State Pickering, like Hamilton, was a pro-British Federalist who would have welcomed a war with France. Responding to Congress' request, President Adams released the documents, which resulted in heightened anti-French hysteria and calls for war from the American public.

    Condition: Overall good, with minor foxing and toning around the edges, and adhesive ghosting around all four edges of blank side of letter and integral sheet. The integral address cover has two small tape repairs in the middle of the right and bottom edges which do not affect text.


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    Auction Dates
    April, 2016
    5th Tuesday
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