appointment notwithstanding, but I discourage it
with the Federalists. Under these circumstances I
see not how any person can come near Mr. Adams â€” â€¢
that is, taking it for granted that he will unite the
votes in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I ex-
Private Correspondence 457
pect that the federal votes in Virginia, if any, will be
in favor of Adams.
You will probably have heard that our Legislature
has passed a bill for electing representatives. The
Houses continue to disagree about senators, and I
fear a compromise will be impracticable. I do not,
however, entirely lose hope. In this situation you
will see we have much to apprehend respecting the
seat of government. The Pennsylvanians are en-
deavoring to bring their forces early in the field â€” I
hope our friends in the North will not be behind-
hand. On many accounts, indeed, it appears to be
important that there be an appearance of zeal and
punctuality in coming forward to set the government
I shall learn with definite pleasure that you are a
representative. As to me, this will not be the case â€”
I believe, from my own disinclination of the thing.
We shall, however, I flatter myself, have a couple of
TO RUFUS KING
Albany, July 15, 1789.
My Dear Sir:
I received your letter by the last post but one. I
immediately set about circulating an idea that it
would be injurious to the city to have Duane elected,
as the probability was some very unfit character
would be his successor. My object was to have this
sentiment communicated to our members. But a
stop was put to my measures by a letter received
45^ Alexander Hamilton
from Burr, announcing that at a general meeting of
the Federalists of both Houses, Schuyler and Duane
had been determined upon in a manner that pre-
cluded future attempts.
I find, however, by a letter from General Schuyler,
received this day, that L'Hommedieu and Morris
may spoil all. Troup tells me that L'Hommedieu
is opposed to you. He made our friend Benson be-
lieve that he would even relinquish himself for you.
What does all this mean?
Certain matters here, about which we have so
often talked, remain in statu quo^
^ For this letter, now first printed, I am indebted to the kindness
of Dr. Charles King, the possessor of the King papers. It is a very
interesting letter, because it relates to the struggle over the election of
United States Senators from New York, which kept New York without
representation in the Senate during the first session of Congress, and
which by its results had such an important influence on the party
politics of the time. Hamilton desired Schuyler and Rufus King to
be Senators. The Livingstons, who led and represented an important
part of the Federalists, cheerfully conceded Schuyler, but wished the
other to be a member of their faction. There was no question as to
King's ability and distinction as a statesman, but he had just come to
New York from Massachusetts, and was a comparative stranger. The
wish of the Livingstons was perfectly right and reasonable, and every
consideration of party wisdom urged the importance of gratifying them.
Whether they would have been satisfied with Duane is not clear. Both
L'Hommedieu and Gouverneur Morris were at one time in the field.
Ezra L'Hommedieu was an able politician, and the originator of the
measure for the State University. Hamilton however declined to
yield. A protracted struggle followed, and Schuyler and King were
chosen. At the expiration of Schuyler's term of two years. Burr was
elected in his stead, the Livingstons were hopelessly and finally alien-
ated, the State became doubtful, and was finally lost to the Federal-
ists. It was one of the instances in which Hamilton's bold, imperious
temper, which made him so strong as a statesman and administrator,
led him into a fatal error as a politician. The Robert Troup referred
to was an adroit politician and great friend of Hamilton. I have one
of his letters written at this time, which exhibits the details of the
contest of which I have given an outline.
Private Correspondence 459
TO OLIVER WOLCOTT
New York, September 13, 1789.
It is with pleasure I am able to inform you that
you have been appointed Auditor in the Depart-
ment of the Treasury. The salary of this office is
fifteen hundred dollars. Your friends having ex-
pressed a doubt of your acceptance, I cannot forbear
saying that I shall be happy to find the doubt has
been ill-founded, as from the character I have re-
ceived of you I am persuaded you will be an acquisi-
tion to the department. I need scarcely add that
your presence here as soon as possible is essential to
the progress of business.'
New York, October 6, 1789.
My Dear Marquis:
I have seen, with a mixture of pleasure and appre-
hension, the progress of the events which have lately
taken place in your country. As a friend to man-
kind and to liberty, I rejoice in the efforts which you
are making to establish it, while I fear much for the
final success of the attempts, for the fate of those I
esteem who are engaged in it, and for the danger, in
case of success, of innovations greater than will con-
sist with the real felicity of your nation. If your
affairs still go well when this reaches you, you will
^ This letter is reprinted from Gibbs' Administrations of Washington
and Adams, i., 2. Oliver Wolcott of Connecticut accepted the office
of Auditor here offered him, and succeeded Hamilton as Secretary of
460 Alexander Hamilton
ask why this foreboding of ill, when all the appear-
ances have been so much in your favor. I will tell
you. I dread disagreements among those who are
now united (which will be likely to be improved by
the adverse party) about the nature of your consti-
tution; I dread the vehement character of yotir
people, whom I fear you may find it more easy to
bring on, than to keep within proper bounds after
you have put them in motion; I dread the inter-
ested refractoriness of your nobles, who cannot be
gratified, and who may be unwilling to submit to
the requisite sacrifices. And I dread the reveries of
your philosophic politicians, who appear in the mo-
ment to have great influence, and who, being mere
speculatists, may aim at more refinement than suits
either with human nature or the composition of your
These, my dear Marquis, are my apprehensions.
My wishes for your personal success and that of the
cause of liberty are incessant. Be virtuous amidst
the seductions of ambition, and you can hardly in
any event be unhappy. You are combined with a
great and good man; you will anticipate the name
of Neckar. I trust you and he will never cease to
You will, I presume, have heard before this gets
to hand, that I have been appointed to the head of
the finances of this country. This event, I am sure,
will give you pleasure. In undertaking the task I
hazard much, but I thought it an occasion that
called upon me to hazard. I have no doubt that the
reasonable expectation of the public may be satis-
Private Correspondence 4^1
fied, if I am properly supported by the Legislature,
and in this respect I stand at present on the most
The debt due to France will be among the first
objects of my attention. Hitherto it has been from
necessity neglected. The session of Congress is now
over. It has been exhausted in the organization of
the government and in a few laws of immediate
urgency respecting navigation and commercial im-
posts. The subject of the debt, foreign and domestic,
has been referred to the next session, which will
commence the first Monday in January, with an in-
struction to me to prepare and report a plan compre-
hending an adequate provision for the support
of the public credit. There were many good reasons
for a temporary adjournment.
From this sketch you will perceive that I am not
in a situation to address any thing officially to your
administration; but I venture to say to you, as my
friend, that if the installments of the principal of the
debt could be suspended for a few years, it would be
a valuable accommodation to the United States. In
this suggestion, I contemplate a speedy payment of
the arrears of interest now due, and effectual pro-
vision for the punctual payment of future interest
as it arises. Could an arrangement of this sort meet
the approbation of your government, it would be
best on every account that the offer should come un-
solicited as a fresh mark of good- will.
I wrote you last by Mr. De Warville. I presume
you received my letter. As it touched upon some
delicate topics I should be glad to know its fate.
462 Alexander Hamilton
P. S. â€” The latest accounts from France have
abated some of my apprehensions. The abdica-
tions of privileges patronized by your nobility in the
States-General are truly noble, and bespeak a patri-
otic and magnanimous policy which promises good
both to them and their country.
TO JAMES MADISON, JR.
October 12, 1789.
I thank you, my dear sir, for the line you were so
obliging as to leave for me, and the loan of the book
accompanying it, in which I have not made suffi-
cient progress to judge of its merit. I don't know
how it was, but I took it for granted that you had
left town earlier than I did; else I should have found
an opportunity, after your adjournment, to converse
with you on the subjects committed to me by the
House of Representatives. It is certainly important
that a plan as complete and as unexceptionable as
possible should be matured by the next meeting of
Congress; and for this purpose it could not but be
useful that there should be a comparison and con-
centration of ideas, of those whose duty leads them
to a contemplation of the subject. As I lost the op-
portunity of a personal communication, may I ask
of your friendship, to put to paper and send me your
thoughts on such objects as may have occurred to
you, for an addition to our revenue, and also as to
any modifications of the public debt, which could be
made consistent with good faith â€” the interest of the
public and of the creditors.
Private Correspondence 4^3
In my opinion, in considering plans for the in-
crease of our revenue, the difficulty lies not so much
in the want of objects as in prejudice, which may
be feared with regard to almost every object. The
question is very much, What further taxes will be
least impopular? ^
New York, October 20, 1789.
Agreeably to your desire I sit down to commit a
few lines to the post.
Nothing worth particular mention has occurred
since your departure, except a report brought by
Mr. Keane from South Carolina, that Mr. McGillivray,
the Indian chief, has, after a short conference, left
our commissioners, declaring that what they sug-
gested was only a repetition of the old story, and in-
admissible, or something to that effect. It is added
that the Lower Creeks appeared, notwithstanding,
willing to go into a treaty, but the Upper ones de-
clined it. General Knox, who has particularly con-
versed with Mr. Keane, will doubtless give you a
more accurate statement of what he brings. It
seems, however, that he has his intelligence at
second- or third-hand.
P. S. â€” I have just seen a letter from a private gen-
tleman of considerable intelligence now in North
Carolina, who gives an ill pÂ»icture of the prospect
there, respecting the adoption of the Constitution.
^ Reprinted from the History of the Republic, iv., 60.
464 Alexander Hamilton
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING
Sir; Treasury Department, Nov. 19, 1789,
In the estimate laid before Congress at their last
sessions, I included as an anticipation of the late
Superintendent of Finance the amount of a draft
issued by him in your favor on the late Receiver of
Taxes for the State of New York, for fifty thousand
dollars, no part of which appears to have been paid.
The circumstances attending this anticipation not
being sufficiently known by the Legislature, pre-
vented (as I presume) a provision being made for it.
It will be therefore necessary for you to inform me
particularly of the nature and circumstances at-
tending this anticipation, and particularly whether
there are any points respecting the claims under it
which give the parties a right to expect payment for
them in specie, whilst so many debts in your depart-
ment appear to have been discharged by certificates.
I wish likewise to know whether any or what part
of these claims may have been settled by the differ-
ent State commissioners, and what mode can be
adopted for ascertaining them should the Legislature
think proper to make a provision for it.'
to col. r. h. harrison '
My Dear Friend: New York, Nov. 27, 1789.
After having labored with you in the common
cause of America during the late war, and having
1 Now first printed from the Pickering papers in the possession of
the Massachusetts Historical Society.
2 Col. Robert Hanson Harrison, of Maryland, one of Washington's
aides-de-camp, familiarly known as the "Old Secretary."
Private Correspondence 4^5
learned your value, judge of the pleasure I feel in
the prospect of a reunion of efforts in this same
cause, for I consider the business of America's happi-
ness as yet to be done.
In proportion to that sentiment has been my dis-
appointment at learning that you had declined a
seat on the bench of the United States. Cannot
your determination, my dear friend, be reconsidered?
One of your objections, I think, will be removed;
I mean that which relates to the nature of the estab-
lishment. Many concur in opinion that its present
form is inconvenient, if not impracticable. Should
an alteration take place, your other objection will
also be removed ; for you can then be nearly as much
at home as you are now.
If it is possible, my dear Harrison, give yourself
to us. We want men like you. They are rare at all
TO HENRY LEE ^
New York, December i, 1789.
My Dear Friend:
I have received your letter of the i6th inst. I am
sure you are sincere when you say that you would
not subject me to an impropriety; nor do I know
that there would be any in my answering your
queries. But you remember the saying with regard
to Caesar's wife. I think the spirit of it applicable
to every man concerned in the administration of the
^ Henry Lee, of Virginia, one of the most dashing soldiers of the
Revolution, and best known by his soubriquet of "Light-Horse
VOL. IX. â€” 30.
466 Alexander Hamilton
finance of a country. With respect to the conduct of
such men, suspicion is ever eagle-eyed. And the
most innocent things are apt to be misinterpreted.
Be assured of the affection and friendship of, etc.
TO WILLIAM DUER
While I truly regret, my dear friend, that the neces-
sity of your situation compels you to relinquish a
station ^ in which public and personal considerations
combine to induce me to wish your continuance, I
cannot but be sensible of the force of the motives by
which you are determined. And I interest myself
in your happiness too sincerely not to acquiesce in
whatever may redound to your advantage. I con-
fess, too, that upon, reflection I cannot help thinking
you have decided rightly.
I count with confidence on your future friendship,
as you may on mine.
An engagement at the President's will not let me
meet you at dinner, but I shall be happy to see you
in the evening. Adieu. God bless you, and give
you the success for which you will always have my
Â» William Duer was Secretary of the old Treasury Board, and
served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury with Hamilton until
1790. This letter is dated 1789 in the edition of 1850, but as it refers
to Duer's retirement from office, could not have been written until the
beginning of the following year.
Private Correspondence 4^7
TO ^DANUS BURKE '
Sir* New York, April i, 1790.
1 have been informed that in the House of Repre-
sentatives yesterday, you made use of some very
harsh expressions in relation to me.
As I cannot but ascribe so unprovoked an attack
to misapprehension or misrepresentation, I have
concluded to send you an extract from the eulogium
pronounced by me on Gen. Greene, of the part to
which alone your animadversions could relate.
It is in these words:
" From the heights of Monmouth I might lead you
to the plains of Springfield, there to behold the
veteran Knyphaussen, at the head of a veteran army,
baffled and almost beaten by a general without an
army, aided â€” or rather emban'assed â€” by small fugi-
tive bodies of volunteer militia, the mimicry of
From this you will perceive that the epithets to
which you have taken exception are neither applica-
ble to the militia of South Carolina in particular, nor
to militia in general, but merely to ''small fugitive
bodies of volunteer militia."
Having thus, sir, stated the matter in its true
light, it remains for you to judge what conduct, in
consequence of the explanation, will be proper on
* Member of Congress from South Carolina from 1789-1791. He
was a distinguished lawyer, a judge, and, at the end of his life, Chancel-
lor of his State. There is no speech by Mr. Burke reported in the
Annals of Congress for March 31, 1790.
2 Now first printed from the Hamilton papers in the State Depart-
468 Alexander Hamilton
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING
* New York, May 13, 1790.
The offer of your service as successor to Mr. Duer
reached me in due time.
I can with truth assure you that you were one of
a very small number who held a competition in my
judgment, and that had personal considerations
alone influenced me, I could with difficulty have
preferred another. Reasons of a peculiar nature,
however, have determined my choice towards Mr.
Tench Coxe, who to great industry and very good
talents adds an extensive theoretical and practical
knowledge of trade.
Allow me to say that, knowing as I now do your
views to public life, I shall, from conviction of your
worth, take pleasure in promoting them â€” and I hope
an opportunity will not be long wanting.*
Ojp. Treasury Department, Sept. 18, 1790.
Mr. Justin Foote has delivered at this office a com-
mission from the President of the United States,
vesting you with the office of Surveyor of the Port
of Winton in North CaroHna. This gentleman in-
formed me that he was not charged with any letter
of resignation from you, but stated the substance of
your verbal communication to him at the time.
I Now first printed from the Pickering papers in the possession of the
Massachusetts Historical Society. Soon after this Col. Pickering was
made Postmaster- General.
Private Correspondence 469
Passing over the obligation of every good citizen
to deport himself with due respect to the Chief
Magistrate, and especially of those to whom he and
the Senate may have previously given indications of
confidence, which I am persuaded you would not
intentionally deviate from, I beg leave to observe
that questions may be raised whether the return of
a commission is all that is requisite from gentlemen
who decline an appointment to a public trust. Under
these circumstances, I find myself constrained to
request that you will make known to the President,
in a regular way, your intentions as to your late
gjR' New York, September 21, 1790.
Doctor Craigie has communicated to me a letter
from Mr. Daniel Parker to him, dated London, the
12th of July, which mentions that he had just seen
Mr. De Miranda, who had recently conversed with
the Marquis del Campo, from whom he had learnt
that the Court of Spain had acceded to our right of
navigating the Mississippi.
Col. Smith has also read to me a passage out of
another letter of the 6th of July, which mentions
that orders had been sent to the Viceroy of Mexico
and the Governor of New Orleans not to interrupt
the passage of vessels of the United States through
It is probable that other communications will have
ascertained to you whether there be any and what
470 Alexander Hamilton
foundation for this intelligence ; but I have thought
it advisable, notwithstanding, to impart it to you.
The reports from Europe favor more and more the
idea of peace. They are, however, not conclusive,
and not entirely correspondent.
Captain Watson, of the ship New York, who left
London the 28th of July, and Torbay the i6th or
17th of August, informs that the evening preceding
her departure from Torbay he was informed by
different officers of the fleet that peace between
Britain and Spain had taken place, and had been
notified by Mr. Pitt in a letter to the Lord Mayor of
London, of which an account had arrived that even-
ing. He had, however, seen no papers concerning
the account, and the press of seamen had continued
down to the same evening.
On the other hand. Captain Hunter, of the ship
George, who left St. Andero the 8th of August, affirms
that vigorous preparations for war were still going
on at that port.
gjj^. New York, September 29, 1790.
I have been duly honored with your two letters of
the 1 8th and 20th of September.
My opinion on a certain subject has been for-
warded, and I hope will ere this have come to hand.
Inclosed you will be pleased to receive a list of
such characters as, from the documents furnished by
Mr. Lear, from my inquiries, and from the intima-
tions contained in your letter of the 20th, appear to
Private Correspondence 47 1
stand, upon the whole, fairest for the command of
the revenue boats, except for the stations of North
Carohna and Georgia concerning which there is no
Captain Montgomery is said to have, on some
accounts, greater pretensions to respectabiHty than
Captain Roach (though both are represented to be
men of merit), and something like claim to preference
Mr. Gross is submitted on the recommendation of
Captain Barney, who mentions favorably both him
and a Mr. Daniel Porter, naming Gross first, but
without expressing a preference of either.
The Vice-President put into my hand a day or two
ago the inclosed letters concerning Captain Lyde,
but as Williams, who is recommended by Governor
Hancock, is also warmly recommended by General
Lincoln, the evidence in his favor may be deemed
The manifest expediency of the previous nomi-
nation or appointment of the persons who are to
command the boats to oversee the building and
equipping of them will suspend the further execu-
tion of the business till your pleasure as to persons
shall be signified.
The subaltern officers can be appointed at greater
leisure, for which purpose I am collecting informa-
tion, as I am also doing in respect to commanders
for the two boats destined for North Carolina and
Georgia; but I presume the others need not be de-
layed on this account.
P. S. â€” The British packet is just arrived. The
472 Alexander Hamilton
rumor is, that the declarations in the inclosed paper
were regarded as the prelude of peace; but that the
matter was not considered as finished, and, accord-
ingly, the press of seamen had continued with as
much vivacity as before. In the letter from the
Minister to the Lord Mayor, these declarations
seemed to be regarded in the above-mentioned light.
The letter says, the negotiators were about to pro-
ceed to the discussion of the other matters in dispute
with a view to a definite arrangement.
gjj^- New York, October 17, 1790.
I had the honor of receiving your letter of the
loth inst. by the last post. It is certainly very pos-
sible, that motives different from the one avowed
may have produced a certain communication; and
in matters of such a nature it is not only allowable,
but the dictate of prudence, to receive suggestions
with peculiar caution.
A British packet arrived yesterday. The accoimts
she brings are all of a warlike aspect. I have ex-
tracted from an English paper the inclosed decree
of the National Assembly of France; which, though
of a qualified tenor, looks pretty directly towards the
eventual supporting of Spain. The English papers
hold it up as a decisive indication of a disposition to
do so. And it is said, in some of the letters which
have been received, that positive orders have been
sent to Lord Howe to fight if he can find an oppor-
tunity. The papers announce a second fleet of
Private Correspondence 473
fifteen sail of the line ready to rendezvous at Ports-