power to enlarge. You will perceive my general
ideas on the subject. I will only add that it will be
wise to lay as little impediment as possible in the
way of your reception into the Union.
TO JAMES MADISON, JR.
Dear Sir* poughkeepsie, juiy 22, 1788.
I wrote to you by the last post, since which nothing
material has turned up here. We are debating on
amendments without having decided what is to be
done with them. There is so great a diversity in the
views of our opponents that it is impossible to pre-
dict any thing. Upon the whole, however, our fears
Private Correspondence 441
New York, August 13, 1788.
Capt. Cochran of the British navy has requested
my aid in recovering a family watch worn by his
brother, who fell at Yorktown, and now in the pos-
session of Gen. Morgan. In compliance with his re-
quest I have written the letter herewith to Gen.
Morgan, which I take the liberty to convey through
you, in hope that if you see no impropriety in it,
you would add your influence to the endeavor to
gratify Capt. Cochran. It is one of those things in
which the affections are apt to be interested, beyond
the value of the object, and in which one naturally
feels an inclination to oblige.
I have delivered to Mr. Madison, to be forwarded
to you, a set of the papers under the signature of
PubHus,' neatly enough bound to be honored with a
place in your library. I presume you have under-
stood that the writers of these papers are chiefly Mr.
Madison and myself, with some aid from Mr. Jay.
I take it for granted, sir, you have concluded to
comply with what will no doubt be the general call
of your country in relation to the new government.
You will permit me to say that it is indispensable
you should lend yourself to its first operations. It
is of little purpose to have introduced a system, if the
weightiest influence is not given to its firm estab-
lishment in the outset.
^ These papers constituted The Federalist.
442 Alexander Hamilton
TO SAMUEL BROOME '
New York, August i6, 1788.
I have this moment received your letter of the
thirteenth instant, and am sorry that the rules of
propriety in respect to my situation as a member of
Congress will not permit my acting in the capacity
My situation for some time past has prevented my
acknowledging one or two of your favors, which have
been duly handed to me. I recollect that one of
them contains an inquiry concerning your son, to
which you will naturally desire an answer. My
public avocations for some time past have put it out
of my power to ascertain the progress he has made —
though I expect when I shall be enough disengaged
to examine, to find it a good one; it cannot fail to
be so if his diligence has been equal to his capacity.
I shall shortly write you further on the subject.
TO governor WM. LIVINGSTON
New York, August 29, 1788.
We are informed here that there is some prob-
ability that your Legislature will instruct your dele-
gates to vote for Philadelphia as the place of the
meeting of the first Congress tmder the new govern-
ment. I presume this information can hardly be
well founded, as upon my calculations there is not a
» a New York merchant, and one of the well-known family of that
Private Correspondence 443
State in the Union so much interested in having the
temporary residence at New York as New Jersey.
As between Philadelphia and New York, I am
mistaken if a greater proportion of your State will
not be benefited by having the seat of government
at the latter than the former place.
If at the latter, too, its exposed and eccentric
position will necessitate the early establishment of a
permanent seat, and in passing south it is highly
probable the government would light upon the Dela-
ware in New Jersey. The Northern States do not wish
to increase Pennsylvania by an accession of all the
wealth and population of the federal city. Penn-
sylvania herself, when not seduced by immediate
possession, will be glad to concur in a situation on
the Jersey side of the Delaware. Here are at once
a majority of the States; but place the government
once down in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania will, of
course, hold fast ; the State of Delaware will do the
All the States south, looking forward to the time
when the balance of population will enable them to
carry the government further south (say to the Po-
tomac), and being accommodated in the meantime
as well as they wish, will concur in no change. The
government, from the delay, will take root in Phila-
delphia, and Jersey will lose all prospect of the
federal city within her limits.
These appear to me calculations so obvious that I
cannot persuade myself New Jersey will so much
oversee her interest as to fall, in the present instance,
into the snares of Pennsylvania.
444 Alexander Hamilton
Dt7AT3 *^tp • New York, September, 1788.
Your Excellency's friendly and obliging letter of
the 28th ultimo came safely to hand. I thank you
for your assurance of seconding my application to
General Morgan. The truth of that affair is that he
purchased the watch for a trifle of a British soldier,
who plundered Major Cochran at the moment of his
fall at Yorktown.
I should be deeply pained, my dear sir, if your
scruples in regard to a certain station should be
matured into a resolution to decline it, though I am
neither surprised at their existence, nor can I but
agree in opinion that the caution you observe in
deferring an ultimate determination is prudent. I
have, however, reflected maturely on the subject,
and have come to a conclusion (in which I feel no
hesitation), that every public and personal considera-
tion will demand from you an acquiescence in what
will certainly be the unanimous wish of your country.
The absolute retreat which you meditated at the
close of the late war was natural and proper. Had
the government produced by the Revolution gone on
in a tolerable train, it would have been most advisable
to have persisted in that retreat. But I am clearly
of opinion that the crisis which brought you again
into public view left you no alternative but to com-
ply, and I am equally clear in the opinion that you
are by that act pledged to take a part in the execu-
tion of the government. I am not less convinced
that the impression of this necessity of your filling the
Private Correspondence 445
station in question is so universal that you run no
risk of any uncandid imputation by submitting to it.
But even if this were not the case, a regard to your
own reputation, as well as to the public good, calls
upon you in the strongest manner to run that risk.
It cannot be considered as a compliment to say
that on your acceptance of the office of President
the success of the new government in its commence-
ment may materially depend. Your agency and in-
fluence will be not less important in preserving it
from the future attacks of its enemies than they have
been in recommending it in the first instance to the
adoption of the people. Independent of all consider-
ations drawn from this source, the point of light in
which you stand at home and abroad will make an
infinite difference in the respectability with which
the government will begin its operations in the al-
ternative of your being or not being at the head of it.
I forbear to urge considerations which might have a
more personal application. What I have said will
suffice for the inferences I mean to draw.
First. In a matter so essential to the well-being
of society as the prosperity of a newly-instituted
government, a citizen of so much consequence as
yourself to its success has no option but to lend his
services if called for. Permit me to say it would
be inglorious in such a situation not to hazard the
glory, however great, which he might have previously
Secondly. Your signature to the proposed system
pledges your judgment for its being such a one as,
upon the whole, was worthy of the public approbation.
446 Alexander Hamilton
If it should miscarry (as men commonly decide
from success, or the want of it), the blame will,
in all probability, be laid on the system itself, and
the framers of it will have to encounter the disrepute
of having brought about a revolution in government,
without substituting any thing that was worthy of
the effort. They pulled down one Utopia, it will be
said, to build up another. This view of the subject
if I mistake not, my dear sir, will suggest to your
mind greater hazard to that fame, which must be
and ought to be dear to you, in refusing your future
aid to the system than in affording it. I will only
add that, in my estimate of the matter, that aid is
I have taken the liberty to express these senti-
ments, and to lay before you my view of the subject.
I doubt not the considerations mentioned have fully
occurred to you, and I trust they will finally produce
in your mind the same result which exists in mine.
I flatter myself the frankness with which I have de-
livered myself will not be displeasing to you. It has
been prompted by motives which you would not dis-
approve. The letter inclosed in yours was imme-
TO THEODORE SEDGWICK *
New York, October 9, 1788.
I thank you, my dear sir, for your obliging con-
gratulations on the event towards -effecting which
^ Theodore Sedgwick, of Massachusetts, afterwards member of Con-
gress, Speaker of the House, and a judge of the Supreme Court of his
native State. He was a staimch Federalist and an ardent friend of
Private Correspondence 447
yotir aid as a joint laborer was so essential. I hope
experience may show that, while it promotes the in-
terest of this place, it will not be incompatible with
public good. We are making efforts to prepare
handsome accommodations for the session of the
On the subject of Vice-President, my ideas have
concurred with yours, and I believe Mr. Adams will
have the votes of this State. He will certainly, I
think, be preferred to the other gentleman. Yet
certainly is perhaps too strong a word. I can con-
ceive that the other, who is supposed to be a more
pliable man, may command Anti-federal influence.
The only hesitation in my mind with regard to
Mr. Adams has arisen within a day or two from a
suggestion by a particular gentleman that he is un-
friendly in his sentiments to General Washington.
Richard H. Lee, who will probably, as rumor now
runs, come from Virginia, is also in this style. The
Lees and Adamses have been in the habit of uniting,
and hence may spring up a cabal very embarrassing
to the Executive, and of course to the administration
of the government. Consider this — soimd the real-
ity of it, and let me hear from you.
What think you of Lincoln or Knox? This is a
TO NATHANIEL CHIPMAN
Your favor of the 6th of September has been duly
handed to me, and I receive great pleasure from the
44^ Alexander Hamilton
hopes you appear to entertain of a favorable turn of
affairs in Vermont in regard to the new government.
It is certainly an object of mutual importance to
yourselves, and to the Union, and well deserves
the best endeavors of every discerning and good
I observe with satisfaction your opinion that Ver-
mont will not make a point of introducing amend-
ments. I mean as a condition of her accession.
That ground would be the most hazardous which she
could venture upon, as it is very probable that such
amendments as might be popular with you would be
deemed inadmissible by the friends of the system,
who will doubtless be the most influential persons
in the national councils ; and who would rather sub-
mit to the inconvenience of your being out of the
Union, till circumstances should alter, than consent
to any thing that might impair the energy of the
government. The article of taxation is, above all,
the most delicate thing to meddle with; for as
plenary power in that respect must ever be con-
sidered as the vital principle of government, no
abridgment or constitutional suspension of that
power can ever, upon mature consideration, be coun-
tenanced by the intelligent friends of an effective
national government. You must, as I remarked in
my former letter, rely upon the natural course of
things, which I am satisfied will exempt you in ordi-
nary times from direct taxation, on account of the
difficulty of exercising it in so extensive a country,
so peculiarly situated, with advantage to the revenue
or .satisfaction to the people. Though this difficulty
Private Correspondence 449
will be gradually diminished from various causes, a
considerable time must first elapse; and, in the in-
terim, you will have nothing to apprehend on this
As far as indirect taxation is concerned, it will be
impossible to exempt you from sharing in the bur-
then, nor can it be desired by your citizens. I re-
peat these ideas to impress you the more strongly
with my sense of the danger of touching this chord,
and of the impolicy of perplexing the main object
with any such collateral experiments, while I am
glad to perceive that you do not think your people
will be tenacious on the point.
It will be useless for you to have any view in your
act to the present Congress. They can of course do
nothing in the matter. All you will have to do will
be to pass an act of accession to the new Constitu-
tion, on the conditions on which you mean to rely.
It will then be for the new government, when met,
to declare whether you can be received on your own
terms or not.
I am sorry to find that the affair of boundary is
likely to create some embarrassment. Men's minds,
everywhere out of your State, are made up upon and
reconciled to that which has been delineated by Con-
gress. Any departure from it must beget new dis-
cussions, in which all the passions will have their
usual scope, and may occasion greater impediments
than the real importance of the thing would justify.
If, however, the further claims you state cannot be
gotten over with you, I would still wish to see the ex-
periment made, though with this clog, because I have
VOL. IX. — 29.
450 Alexander Hamilton
it very much at heart that you should become a mem-
ber of the Confederacy. It is, however, not to be
inferred that the same disposition will actuate every-
body. In this State, the pride of certain individuals
has too long triumphed over the public interest ; and
in several of the Southern States a jealousy of North-
em influence will prevent any great zeal for increas-
ing in the national councils the number of Northern
I mention these circumstances (though I dare say
they will have occurred to you), to show you the
necessity of moderation and caution on your part,
and the error of an 3^ sanguine calculation upon a dis-
position to receive you at any rate. A supposition
of this nature might lead to fatal mistakes.
In the event of an extension of your boundary
beyond the Congressional line, would it be imprac-
ticable for you to have commissioners appointed to
adjust any differences which might arise? I pre-
sume the principal object with you in the extension
of your boundary would be to cover some private
interests. This might be matter of negotiation.
There is one thing which I think it proper to men-
tion to you, about which I have some doubt — that
is, whether a legislative accession would be deemed
valid. It is the policy of the system to lay its
foundations in the immediate consent of the people.
You will best judge how far it is safe or practicable
to have recourse to a convention. Whatever you
do, no time ought to be lost. The present moment
is undoubtedly critically favorable. Let it by aU
means be improved.
Private Correspondence 45^
TO THEODORE SEDGWICK
New York, November 9, 1788.
My Dear Sir:
Your last letter but one met me at Albany attend-
ing court, from whence I am but just returned.
Yours of the 2d inst. is this moment handed me.
1 am very sorry for the schism you hint at among
the Federalists, but I have so much confidence in the
good management of the fast friends of the Constitu-
tion, that I hope no ill consequences will ensue from
that disagreement. It will, however, be worthy of
great care to avoid suffering a difference of opinion
on collateral points, to produce any serious division
between those who have hitherto drawn together on
the great national question.
Permit me to add that I do not think you should
allow any line to be run between those who wish to
trust alterations to future experience, and those who
are desirous of them at the present juncture. The
rage for amendments is in my opinion rather to
be parried by address than encountered with open
force. And I shall therefore be loth to learn that
your parties have been arranged professedly upon
the distinction I have mentioned. The mode in
which amendments may best be made, and twenty
other matters, may serve as pretexts for avoiding
the evil and securing the good.
On the question between Mr. H.' and Mr. A.,'
Mr. King will probably have informed you that I
^ John Hancock.
2 John Adams. The question was which of these two should be
supported for the Vice-Presidency.
452 Alexander Hamilton
have, upon the whole, concluded that the latter
ought to be supported. My measures will be taken
accordingly. I had but one scruple, but after ma-
ture consideration, I have relinquished it. Mr. A.,
to a sound understanding, has always appeared to
me to add an ardent love for the public good, and,
as his further knowledge of the world seems to have
corrected those jealousies which he is represented to
have once been influenced by, I trust nothing of the
kind suggested in my former letter will disturb the
harmony of the administration. Let me continue
to hear from you, and believe me to be, with very
great esteem and regard, etc.
Dear Sir: November iS, 1788.
Your last two letters have duly come to hand, and
the Count de Moustier has delivered me the watch
you committed to his charge. Your obliging atten-
tion to this matter claims my particular acknow-
ledgments. I will make no apology for asking you
to take the additional trouble of forwarding the en-
closed to the General. I take the liberty of passing
it through you, that you may, by perusing the con-
tents, know the situation of the business.
The demand of fifty guineas is to me quite un-
expected. I am sorry to add that there is too good
evidence that it cost a mere trifle to the General.
This, however, I mention in confidence. Nor shall
I give you any further trouble on the subject. What-
ever may be proper will be done.
Private Correspondence 453
Mrs. Hamilton requests her affectionate remem-
brances to Mrs. Washington, and joins me in the best
wishes for you both.
P. S. — Your last letter, on a certain subject, I
have received. I feel a conviction that you will
finally see your acceptance to be indispensable. It
is no compliment to say that no other man can
sufficiently unite the public opinion or can give the
requisite weight to the office in the commencement
of the government. These considerations appear to
me of themselves decisive. I am not sure that your
refusal would not throw every thing into confusion.
I am sure that it would have the worst effect imagin-
able. Indeed, as I hinted in a former letter, I think
circumstances leave no option.
TO JAMES MADISON, JR.
New York, November 23, 1788.
I thank you, my dear sir, for yours of the 20th.
The only part of it which surprises me is what you
mention respecting Clinton. I cannot, however, be-
lieve that the plan will succeed. Nor, indeed, do I
think that Clinton would be disposed to exchange
his present appointment for that office, or risk his
popularity by holding both. At the same time the
attempt merits attention, and ought not to be
neglected as chimerical or impracticable.
In Massachusetts the Electors will, I understand,
be appointed by the Legislature, and will be all
Federal, and 't is probable will be, for the most part,
454 Alexander Hamilton
in favor of Adams. It is said the same thing will
happen in New Hampshire, and, I have reason to
believe, it will be the case in Connecticut. In this
State it is difficult to form any certain calculation.
A large majority of the Assembly was doubtless of
an Anti-federal complexion, but the schism in the
party, which has been occasioned by the falling off
of some of its leaders in the Convention, leaves me
not without hope that, if matters are well managed,
we may procure a majority for some pretty equal
compromise. In the Senate we have the superiority
by one. In New Jersey there seems to be no ques-
tion but that the complexion of the Electors will be
Federal, and I suppose, if thought expedient, they
may be united in favor of Adams. Pennsylvania
you can best judge of. From Delaware, Maryland,
and South Carolina, I presume, we may count with
tolerable assurance on Federal men; and I should
imagine, if pains are taken, the danger of an Anti-
federal Vice-President might itself be rendered the
instrument of Union. At any rate, their weight
will not be thrown into the scale of Clinton, and I
do not see from what quarter numbers can be mar-
shalled in his favor equal to those who will advocate
Adams, supposing even a division in the Federal
On the whole I have concluded to support Adams,
though I am not without apprehensions on the score
we have conversed about. My principal reasons are
these: First, he is a declared partisan of deferring
to future experience the expediency of amendments
in the system, and (although I do not altogether
Private Correspondence 455
adopt this sentiment) it is much nearer my own than
certain other doctrines. Secondly, he is certainly a
character of importance in the Eastern States ; if he
is not Vice-President, one of two worse things will be
likely to happen. Either he must be nominated to
some important office, for which he is less proper, or
will become a malcontent, and give additional weight
to the opposition to the government. As to Knox,
I cannot persuade myself that he will incline to the
appointment. He must sacrifice emolument by it,
which must be of necessity a primary object with
If it should be thought expedient to endeavor to
unite on a particular character, there is a danger of a
different kind to which we must not be inattentive —
the possibility of rendering it doubtful who is ap-
pointed President. You know the Constitution has
not provided the means of distinguishing in certain
cases, and it would be disagreeable to have a man
treading close upon the heels of the person we wish
as President. May not the malignity of the opposi-
tion be, in some instances, exhibited even against
him? Of all this we shall best judge when we know
who are our Electors ; and we must, in our different
circles, take our measures accordingly.
I could console myself for what you mention re-
specting yourself, from a desire to see you in one
of the executive departments, did I not perceive the
representation will be defective in characters of a cer-
tain description. Wilson is evidently out of the ques-
tion. King tells me he does not believe he will be
elected into either House. Mr. Gouvemeur Morris
45^ Alexander Hamilton
set out to-day for France, by way of Philadelphia.
If you are not in one of the branches, the government
may sincerely feel the want of men who unite to zeal
all the requisite qualifications for parrying the machi-
nations of its enemies. Might I advise, it would be,
that you bent your course to Virginia.
TO THEODORE SEDGWICK
New York, January 29, 1789.
My Dear Sir:
I thank you for your two letters of the 4th and 7 th
instant which arrived here during my absence at
Albany, from which place I have but recently re-
turned. I believe you may be perfectly tranquil on
the subject of Mr. Adams' election. It seems to be
certain that all the Middle States will vote for him
to Delaware inclusively, and probably Maryland.
In the South there are no candidates thought of but
Rutledge and CHnton. The latter will have the
votes of Virginia, and it is possible some in South
Carolina. Maryland will certainly not vote for
Clinton, and New York, from our Legislature having
by their contentions let slip the day, will not vote at
all. For the last circumstance I am not sorry, as
the most we could hope would be to balance accotints
and do no harm. The Anti-federalists incline to an