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Hamilton Defends a British Merchant Sued for Wartime Use of a Patriot’s Property During the British Occupation of New York City
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Available as part of The Alexander Hamilton Collection

The Barrack Master General...gave his license and permission to the said Henry...a British Merchant under the protection of the said army and who from the time of his birth at all times since hath been and still is a subject of the said King of Great Britain…”

ALEXANDER HAMILTON. Autograph Manuscript fragment of draft of legal plea in Tucker v. Thompson, c. May 1784, 3 pp.

Inventory #24626      

Between 1784 and 1791, Hamilton participated in nearly four dozen cases under the Trespass Act. In Rutgers v. Waddington, Hamilton, defending a British merchant, argued that the court had the right and responsibility to interpret the law (judicial review) and that it could and should compare state with national and even international law. Specifically, Hamilton argued that the Trespass Act conflicted with both the Treaty of Peace and the law of nations. Mayor James Duane delivered the opinion of the court in August 1784, in which it allowed rent for 1778-1780 because the authorization of the Commissary General was not sufficient under the statute, but denied it for 1780-1783 because the authorization of the Commander in Chief was valid under the law of nations.

In this similar case, filed at the same time in February 1784, Hamilton defended British merchant Henry Thompson against Thomas Tucker’s claims for exorbitant damages of £2000.  It appears that the parties settled their case after the court’s ruling in Rutgers v. Waddington.[1]


[1] Julius Goebel Jr. and Joseph H. Smith, eds., The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton: Documents and Commentary, 5 vols. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964-1981), 1:204-5, 289-310, 419-22, 425-48.


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