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hamilton to washington 1 - Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 7 
The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 7.
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hamilton to washington1
September 9, 1792.
Sir:—I have the pleasure of your private letter of the 26th of August. The feelings and views which are manifested in that letter are such as I expected would exist. And I most sincerely regret the causes of the uneasy sensations you experience. It is my most anxious wish, as far as may depend upon me, to smooth the path of your administration, and to render it prosperous and happy. And if any prospect shall open of healing or terminating the differences which exist, I shall most cheerfully embrace it; though I consider myself as the deeply injured party. The recommendation of such a spirit is worthy of the moderation and wisdom which dictated it. And if your endeavors should prove unsuccessful, I do not hesitate to say, that in my opinion the period is not remote, when the public good will require substitutes for the differing members of your administration. The continuance of a division there must destroy the energy of government, which will be little enough with the strictest union. On my part there will be a most cheerful acquiescence in such a result.
I trust, sir, that the greatest frankness has always marked, and will always mark, every step of my conduct towards you. In this disposition I cannot conceal from you, that I have had some instrumentality of late in the retaliations which have fallen upon certain public characters, and that I find myself placed in a situation not to be able to recede for the present.
I considered myself as compelled to this conduct by reasons public as well as personal, of the most cogent nature. I know that I have been an object of uniform opposition from Mr. Jefferson, from the moment of his coming to the city of New York to enter upon his present office. I know from the most authentic sources, that I have been the frequent subject of the most unkind whispers and insinuations from the same quarter. I have long seen a party formed in the Legislature under his auspices, bent upon my subversion. I cannot doubt from the evidence I possess, that the National Gazette was instituted by him for political purposes, and that one leading object of it has been to render me, and all the measures connected with my department, as odious as possible. Nevertheless, I can truly say, that, except explanations to confidential friends, I never directly or indirectly retaliated or countenanced retaliation till very lately. I can even assure you, that I was instrumental in preventing a very severe and systematic attack upon Mr. Jefferson by an association of two or three individuals, in consequence of the persecution which he brought upon the Vice-President, by his indiscreet and light letter to the printer, transmitting Paine’s pamphlet.
As long as I saw no danger to the government from the machinations which were going on, I resolved to be a silent sufferer of the injuries which were done me. I determined to avoid giving occasion to any thing which could manifest to the world dissensions among the principal characters of the government; a thing which can never happen without weakening its hands, and in some degree throwing a stigma upon it.
But when I no longer doubted that there was a formed party deliberately bent upon the subversion of measures, which in its consequences would subvert the government; when I saw that the undoing of the funding system in particular (which, whatever may be the original merits of that system, would prostrate the credit and the honor of the nation, and bring the government into contempt with that description of men who are in every society the only firm supporters of government) was an avowed object of the party, and that all possible pains were taken to produce that effect, by rendering it odious to the body of the people, I considered it as a duty to endeavor to resist the torrent, and, as an effectual means to this end, to draw aside the veil from the principal actors. To this strong impulse, to this decided conviction, I have yielded. And I think events will prove that I have judged rightly.
Nevertheless, I pledge my honor to you, sir, that if you shall hereafter form a plan to reunite the members of your administration upon some steady principle of coöperation, I will faithfully concur in executing it during my continuance in office; and I will not directly or indirectly say or do a thing that shall endanger a feud.
I have had it very much at heart to make an excursion to Mount Vernon, by way of the federal city, in the course of this month, and have more than once been on the point of asking your permission for it. But I now despair of being able to effect it. I am, nevertheless, equally obliged by your kind invitation.
With the most affectionate and faithful attachment, etc.
THE ADAMS CONTROVERSY
THE ADAMS CONTROVERSY
the public conduct and character of john adams, esq., president of the united states1
Some of the warm personal friends of Mr. Adams are taking unwearied pains to disparage the motives of those Federalists who advocate the equal support of General Pinckney at the approaching election of President and Vice-President. They are exhibited under a variety of aspects equally derogatory. Sometimes they are versatile, factious spirits, who cannot be long satisfied with any chief, however meritorious; sometimes they are ambitious spirits, who can be contented with no man that will not submit to be governed by them; sometimes they are intriguing partisans of Great Britain, who, devoted to the advancement of her views, are incensed against Mr. Adams for the independent impartiality of his conduct.
In addition to a full share of the obloquy vented against this description of persons collectively, peculiar accusations have been devised to swell the catalogue of my demerits. Among these, the resentment of disappointed ambition forms a prominent feature. It is pretended that, had the President, upon the demise of General Washington, appointed me Commander-in-Chief, he would have been, in my estimation, all that is wise, and good, and great.
It is necessary, for the public cause, to repel these slanders, by stating the real views of the persons who are calumniated, and the reasons of their conduct.
In executing this task, with particular reference to myself, I ought to premise that the ground upon which I stand is different from that of most of those who are confounded with me in pursuit of the same plan. While our object is common, our motives are variously dissimilar. A part, well affected to Mr. Adams, have no other wish than to take a double chance against Mr. Jefferson. Another part, feeling a diminution of confidence in him, still hope that the general tenor of his conduct will be essentially right. Few go as far in their objections as I do. Not denying to Mr. Adams patriotism and integrity, and even talents of a certain kind, I should be deficient in candor, were I to conceal the conviction that he does not possess the talents adapted to the administration of government, and that there are great and intrinsic defects in his character, which unfit him for the office of chief magistrate.
To give a correct idea of the circumstances which have gradually produced this conviction, it may be useful to retrospect to an early period.
I was one of that numerous class who had conceived a high veneration for Mr. Adams, on account of the part he acted in the first stages of our revolution. My imagination had exalted him to a high eminence, as a man of patriotic, bold, profound, and comprehensive mind. But in the progress of the war, opinions were ascribed to him, which brought into question, with me, the solidity of his understanding.
He was represented to be of the number of those who favored the enlistment of our troops annually, or for short periods, rather than for the term of the war; a blind and infatuated policy, directly contrary to the urgent recommendation of General Washington, and which had nearly proved the ruin of our cause. He was also said to have advocated the project of appointing yearly a new commander of the army; a project which, in any service, is likely to be attended with more evils than benefits; but which in ours, at the period in question, was chimerical, from the want of persons qualified to succeed, and pernicious, from the peculiar fitness of the officer first appointed, to strengthen, by personal influence, the too feeble cords which bound to the service an ill-paid, ill-clothed, and undisciplined soldiery.
It is impossible for me to assert, at this distant day, that these suggestions were brought home to Mr. Adams in such a manner as to ascertain their genuineness; but I distinctly remember their existence, and my conclusion from them; which was, that, if true, they proved this gentleman to be infected with some visionary notions, and that he was far less able in the practice, than in the theory, of politics. I remember, also, that they had the effect of inducing me to qualify the admiration which I had once entertained for him, and to reserve for opportunities of future scrutiny, a definitive opinion of the true standard of his character.
In this disposition I was, when, just before the close of the war, I became a member of Congress.
The situation in which I found myself there, was far from being inauspicious to a favorable estimate of Mr. Adams.
Upon my first going into Congress, I discovered symptoms of a party already formed, too well disposed to subject the interests of the United States to the management of France. Though I felt, in common with those who had participated in our revolution, a lively sentiment of good will toward a power whose co-operation, however it was and ought to have been dictated by its own interest, had been extremely useful to us, and had been afforded in a liberal and handsome manner; yet, tenacious of the real independence of our country, and dreading the preponderance of foreign influence, as the natural disease of popular government, I was struck with disgust at the appearance, in the very cradle of our republic, of a party actuated by an undue complaisance to a foreign power; and I resolved at once to resist this bias in our affairs—a resolution which has been the chief cause of the persecution I have endured in the subsequent stages of my political life.
Among the fruits of the bias I have mentioned, were the celebrated instructions to our commissioners, for treating of peace with Great Britain; which, not only as to final measures, but also as to preliminary and intermediate negotiations, placed them in a state of dependence on the French ministry, humiliating to themselves, and unsafe for the interests of the country. This was the more exceptionable, as there was cause to suspect, that in regard to the two cardinal points of the fisheries and the navigation of the Mississippi, the policy of the cabinet of Versailles did not accord with the wishes of the United States.
The commissioners, of whom Mr. Adams was one, had the fortitude to break through the fetters which were laid upon them by those instructions; and there is reason to believe that, by doing it, they both accelerated the peace with Great Britain, and improved the terms, while they preserved our faith with France.
Yet a serious attempt was made to obtain from Congress a formal censure of their conduct. The attempt failed, and instead of censure, the praise was bestowed which was justly due to the accomplishment of a treaty advantageous to this country, beyond the most sanguine expectation. In this result, my efforts were heartily united.
The principal merit of the negotiation with Great Britain, in some quarters, has been bestowed upon Mr. Adams; but it is certainly the right of Mr. Jay, who took a lead in the several steps of the transaction, no less honorable to his talents than to his firmness. The merit, nevertheless, of a full and decisive co-operation, is justly due to Mr. Adams.
It will readily be seen, that such a course of things was calculated to impress me with a disposition friendly to Mr. Adams. I certainly felt it, and gave him much of my consideration and esteem.
But this did not hinder me from making careful observations upon his several communications, and endeavoring to derive from them an accurate idea of his talents and character. This scrutiny enhanced my esteem in the main for his moral qualifications, but lessened my respect for his intellectual endowments. I then adopted an opinion, which all my subsequent experience has confirmed, that he is a man of an imagination sublimated and eccentric; propitious neither to the regular display of sound judgment, nor to steady perseverance in a systematic plan of conduct; and I began to perceive what has been since too manifest, that to this defect are added the unfortunate foibles of a vanity without bounds, and a jealousy capable of discoloring every object.
Strong evidence of some traits of this character is to be found in a journal of Mr. Adams, which was sent by the then Secretary of Foreign Affairs to Congress. The reading of this journal extremely embarrassed his friends, especially the delegates of Massachusetts, who, more than once, interrupted it, and at last, succeeded in putting a stop to it, on the suggestion that it bore the marks of a private and confidential paper, which, by some mistake, had gotten into its present situation, and never could have been designed as a public document for the inspection of Congress. The good humor of that body yielded to the suggestion.
The particulars of this journal cannot be expected to have remained in my memory—but I recollect one which may serve as a sample. Being among the guests invited to dine with the Count de Vergennes, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Adams thought fit to give a specimen of American politeness, by conducting Madame de Vergennes to dinner; on the way, she was pleased to make retribution in the current coin of French politeness—by saying to him, “Monsieur Adams, vous êtes le Washington de négociation.“1 Stating the incident, he makes this comment upon it: “These people have a very pretty knack of paying compliments.” He might have added, they have also a very dexterous knack of disguising a sarcasm.
The opinion, however, which I have avowed, did not prevent my entering cordially into the plan of supporting Mr. Adams for the office of Vice-President, under the new Constitution. I still thought that he had high claims upon the public gratitude, and possessed a substantial worth of character, which might atone for some great defects. In addition to this, it was well known that he was a favorite of New England, and it was obvious that his union with General Washington would tend to give the government, in its outset, all the strength which it could derive from the character of the two principal magistrates.
But it was deemed an essential point of caution to take care, that accident, or an intrigue of the opposers of the government, should not raise Mr. Adams, instead of General Washington, to the first place. This, every friend of the government would have considered a disastrous event; as well because it would have displayed a capricious operation of the system, in elevating to the first station a man intended for the second; as because it was conceived that the incomparably superior weight and transcendent popularity of General Washington rendered his presence at the head of the government, in its first organization, a matter of primary and indispensable importance. It was therefore agreed that a few votes should be diverted from Mr. Adams to other persons, so as to insure to General Washington a plurality.
Great was my astonishment, and equally great my regret, when, afterwards, I learned from persons of unquestionable veracity, that Mr. Adams had complained of unfair treatment, in not having been permitted to take an equal chance with General Washington, by leaving the votes to an uninfluenced current.
The extreme egotism of the temper, which could blind a man to considerations so obvious as those that had recommended the course pursued, cannot be enforced by my comment. It exceeded all that I had imagined, and showed, in too strong a light, that the vanity which I have ascribed to him existed to a degree that rendered it more than a harmless foible.
Mr. Adams was elected Vice-President. His public conduct, in that station, was satisfactory to the friends of the government, though they were now and then alarmed by appearances of some eccentric tendencies.
It is, in particular, a tribute due from me to acknowledge that Mr. Adams, being, in quality of Vice-President, ex officio one of the trustees of the sinking fund, I experienced from him the most complete support, which was the more gratifying to me, as I had to struggle against the systematic opposition of Mr. Jefferson, seconded occasionally by Mr. Randolph. Though it would be an ill compliment to Mr. Adams not to presume that the support which he gave me was the dictate of his sense of the public interest; yet, so cordial and useful a co-operation, at a moment when I was assailed with all the weapons of party rancor, won from me an unfeigned return of the most amicable sentiments.
I lost no opportunity of combating the prejudices industriously propagated against him by his political enemies; and, for a considerable time, went quite as far as candor would permit, to extenuate the failings which more and more alarmed and dissatisfied his friends.
The epoch at length arrived when the retreat of General Washington made it necessary to fix upon a successor. By this time, men of principal influence in the Federal party, whose situation had led them to an intimate acquaintance with Mr. Adams’ character, began to entertain serious doubts about his fitness for the station; yet, his pretensions, in several respects, were so strong that, after mature reflection, they thought it better to indulge their hopes than to listen to their fears. To this conclusion, the desire of preserving harmony in the Federal party, was a weighty inducement. Accordingly, it was determined to support Mr. Adams for the chief magistracy.
It was evidently of much consequence to endeavor to have an eminent Federalist Vice-President. Mr. Thomas Pinckney, of South Carolina, was selected for this purpose. This gentleman, too little known in the North, had been all his lifetime distinguished in the South, for the mildness and amiableness of his manners, the rectitude and purity of his morals, and the soundness and correctness of his understanding, accompanied by an habitual discretion and self-command, which has often occasioned a parallel between him and the venerated Washington. In addition to these recommendations, he had been, during a critical period, our Minister at the court of London, and recently Envoy Extraordinary to the court of Spain; and in both these trusts he had acquitted himself to the satisfaction of all parties. With the court of Spain he had effected a treaty which removed all the thorny subjects of contention that had so long threatened the peace of the two countries, and stipulated for the United States, on their southern frontier, and on the Mississippi, advantages of real magnitude and importance.
Well-informed men knew that the event of the election was extremely problematical; and while the friends of Mr. Jefferson predicted his success with sanguine confidence, his opposers feared that he might have at least an equal chance with any Federal candidate.
To exclude him was deemed, by the Federalists, a primary object. Those of them who possessed the best means of judging were of opinion that it was far less important whether Mr. Adams or Mr. Pinckney was the successful candidate, than that Mr. Jefferson should not be the person; and on this principle, it was understood among them, that the two first-mentioned gentlemen should be equally supported, leaving to casual accessions of votes in favor of the one or the other to turn the scale between them.
In this plan I united with good faith, in the resolution, to which I scrupulously adhered, of giving to each candidate an equal support. This was done wherever my influence extended, as was more particularly manifested in the State of New York, where all the electors were my warm personal or political friends, and all gave a concurrent vote for the two Federal candidates.
It is true that a faithful execution of this plan would have given Mr. Pinckney a somewhat better chance than Mr. Adams; nor shall it be concealed, that an issue favorable to the former would not have been disagreeable to me; as indeed I declared at the time, in the circles of my confidential friends.1 My position was, that if the chance should decide in favor of Mr. Pinckney, it probably would not be a misfortune; since he, to every essential qualification for the office, added a temper far more discreet and conciliatory than that of Mr. Adams.
This disposition, on my part, at that juncture, proves, at least, that my disapprobation of Mr. Adams has not originated in the disappointment, to which it has been uncandidly attributed. No private motive could then have entered into it. Not the least collision or misunderstanding had ever happened between that gentleman and myself—on the contrary, as I have already stated, I had reason individually to be pleased with him.
No: The considerations which had reconciled me to the success of Mr. Pinckney, were of a nature exclusively public. They resulted from the disgusting egotism, the distempered jealousy, and the ungovernable indiscretion of Mr. Adams’ temper, joined to some doubts of the correctness of his maxims of administration. Though in matters of finance he had acted with the Federal party; yet he had, more than once, broached theories at variance with his practice. And in conversation he repeatedly made excursions into the field of foreign politics, which alarmed the friends of the prevailing system.
The plan of giving equal support to the two Federal candidates, was not pursued. Personal attachment for Mr. Adams, especially in the New England States, caused a number of the votes to be withheld from Mr. Pinckney, and thrown away. The result was, that Mr. Adams was elected President by a majority of two votes, and Mr. Jefferson Vice-President.
This issue demonstrated the wisdom of the plan which had been abandoned, and how greatly, in departing from it, the cause had been sacrificed to the man. But for a sort of miracle, the departure would have made Mr. Jefferson President. In each of the States of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina, Mr. Adams had one vote. In the two latter States, the one vote was as much against the stream of popular prejudice, as it was against the opinions of the other electors. The firmness of the individuals who separated from their colleagues, was so extra-ordinary as to have been contrary to all probable calculation. Had only one of them thrown his vote into the other scale, there would have been an equality, and no election. Had two done it, the choice would have fallen upon Mr. Jefferson.
No one, sincere in the opinion that this gentleman was an ineligible and dangerous candidate, can hesitate in pronouncing, that in dropping Mr. Pinckney, too much was put at hazard; and that those who promoted the other course, acted with prudence and propriety.
It is a fact, which ought not to be forgotten, that Mr. Adams, who had evinced discontent, because he had not been permitted to take an equal chance with General Washington, was enraged with all those who had thought that Mr. Pinckney ought to have had an equal chance with him. But in this there is perfect consistency. The same turn of temper is the solution of the displeasure in both cases.
It is to this circumstance of the equal support of Mr. Pinckney, that we are in a great measure to refer the serious schism which has since grown up in the Federal party.
Mr. Adams never could forgive the men who had been engaged in the plan; though it embraced some of his most partial admirers. He has discovered bitter animosity against several of them. Against me, his rage has been so vehement as to have caused him, more than once, to forget the decorum which, in his situation, ought to have been an inviolable law. It will not appear an exaggeration to those who have studied his character, to suppose that he is capable of being alienated from a system to which he has been attached, because it is upheld by men whom he hates. How large a share this may have had in some recent aberrations, cannot easily be determined.
Occurrences which have either happened or come to light since the election of Mr. Adams to the Presidency, confirming my unfavorable forebodings of his character, have given new and decisive energy, in my mind, to the sentiment of his unfitness for the station.
The letter which has just appeared in the public prints, written by him, while Vice-President, to Tench Coxe, is of itself conclusive evidence of the justness of this sentiment. It is impossible to speak of this transaction in terms suited to its nature, without losing sight that Mr. Adams is President of the United States.
This letter avows the suspicion, that the appointment of Mr. Pinckney to the court of London, had been procured or promoted by British influence. And considering the parade with which the story of the Duke of Leeds is told, it is fair to consider that circumstance as the principal, if not the sole, ground of the odious and degrading suspicion.
Let any man of candor or knowledge of the world, pronounce on this species of evidence.
It happened unfortunately for the Pinckneys, that, while boys, and long before our revolution, they went to school with a British duke, who was afterwards Minister of the British Government for the Foreign Department. This indiscreet duke, perhaps for no better reason than the desire of saying something to a parting American Minister, and the want of something better to say, divulges to him the dangerous secret, that the two Pinckneys had been his classmates, and goes the alarming length of making inquiry about their health. From this, it is sagaciously inferred, that these gentlemen have “many powerful old friends in England”; and from this again, that the Duke of Leeds (of course of the number of these old friends) had procured by intrigue the appointment of one of his classmates to the court of London; or, in the language of the letter, that much British influence had been exerted in the appointment.
In the school of jealousy, stimulated by ill-will, logic like this may pass for substantial; but what is it in the school of reason and justice?
Though this contaminating connection of the Pinckneys with the Duke of Leeds, in their juvenile years, did not hinder them from fighting for the independence of their native country throughout our revolution, yet, the supposition is, that the instant the war was terminated, it transformed them from the soldiers of liberty into the tools of the British monarchy.
But the hostility of the Pinckneys to Mr. Adams, evidenced by their “long intrigue” against him, of which he speaks in the letter, is perhaps intended as a still stronger proof of their devotion to Great Britain. The argument may be thus understood: Mr. Adams is the bulwark of his country against foreign influence. The batteries of every foreign power, desirous of acquiring an ascendant in our affairs, are of consequence always open against him; and the presumption, therefore, must be, that every citizen who is his enemy, is the confederate of one or another of those foreign powers.
Let us, without contesting this argument of self-love, examine into the facts upon which its applicability must depend.
The evidence of the “long intrigue” seems to be, that the family of the Pinckneys contributed to limit the duration of Mr. Adams’ commission to the court of London to the term of three years, in order to make way for some of themselves to succeed him. This, it must be confessed, was a long-sighted calculation in a government like ours.
A summary of the transaction will be the best comment on the inference which has been drawn.
The resolution of Congress by which Mr. Adams’ commission was limited, was a general one, applying to the commissions of all ministers to foreign courts. When it was proposed and adopted, it is certain that neither of the two Pinckneys was a member of Congress; and it is believed that they were both at Charleston, in South Carolina, their usual place of abode, more than eight hundred miles distant from the seat of government.
But they had, it seems, a cousin, Mr. Charles Pinckney, who was in Congress; and this cousin it was who moved the restrictive resolution. Let us inquire who seconded and who voted for it.
It was seconded by Mr. Howell, a member from Rhode Island, the very person who nominated Mr. Adams as Minister to Great Britain, and was voted for by the four Eastern States, with New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and South Carolina. Mr. Gerry, always a zealous partisan of Mr. Adams, was among the supporters of the resolution. To make out this to be a machination of the two Pinckneys, many things must be affirmed: first, that their cousin Charles is always subservient to their views (which would equally prove that they have long been, and still are, opposers of the Federal administration); second, that this cunning wight had been able to draw the four Eastern States into his plot, as well as New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and South Carolina; third, that the Pinckneys could foresee, at the distance of three years, the existence of a state of things which would enable them to reap the fruit of their contrivance.
Would not the circumstances better warrant the suspicion that the resolution was a contrivance of the friends of Mr. Adams to facilitate in some way his election, and that Mr. Pinckney was their coadjutor, rather than their prompter?
But the truth most probably is, that the measure was a mere precaution to bring under frequent review the propriety of continuing a minister at a particular court, and to facilitate the removal of a disagreeable one, without the harshness of formally displacing him. In a policy of this sort, the cautious maxims of New England would very naturally have taken a lead.
Thus, in the very grounds of the suspicion as far as they appear, we find its refutation. The complete futility of it will now be illustrated by additional circumstances.
It is a fact, that the rigor with which the war was prosecuted by the British armies in our Southern quarter, had produced among the friends of our revolution there, more animosity against the British Government, than in the other parts of the United States; and it is a matter of notoriety in the same quarter, that this disposition was conspicuous among the Pinckneys and their connections. It may be added, that they were likewise known to have been attached to the French Revolution, and to have continued so, till long after the appointment of Mr. Thomas Pinckney to the court of London.
These propensities of the gentlemen were certainly not such as to make them favorites of Great Britain, or the appointment of one of them to that court an object of particular solicitude.
As far as appeared at the time, the idea of nominating Mr. Thomas Pinckney, originated with the then President himself; but whatever may have been its source, it is certain that it met the approbation of the whole administration, Mr. Jefferson included. This fact alone, will go far to refute the surmise of a British agency in the appointment.
Supposing that, contrary to all probability, Great Britain had really taken some unaccountable fancy for Mr. Pinckney, upon whom was her influence exerted?
Had the virtuous, circumspect Washington been ensnared in her insidious toils? Had she found means for once to soften the stern, inflexible hostility of Jefferson? Had Randolph been won by her meretricious caresses? Had Knox, the uniform friend of Mr. Adams, been corrupted by her seducing wiles? Or was it all the dark work of the alien Secretary of the Treasury? Was it this arch juggler, who debauched the principles, or transformed the prejudices of Mr. Pinckney; who persuaded the British Government to adopt him as a pliant instrument; who artfully induced the President to propose him as of his own selection; who lulled the zealous vigilance of Jefferson and Randolph, and surprised the unsuspecting frankness of Knox?
But when the thing had been accomplished, no matter by what means, it was surely to have been expected that the man of its choice would have been treated at the court of London with distinguished regard, and that his conduct towards that court would have been marked, if not by some improper compliances, at least by some displays of extraordinary complaisance.
Yet, strange as it may appear, upon Mr. Adams’ hypothesis, it might be proved, if requisite, that neither the one nor the other took place. It might be proved that, far from Mr. Pinckney’s having experienced any flattering distinctions, incidents not pleasant to his feelings had occurred, and that in the discharge of his official functions he had advanced pretensions in favor of the United States, from which, with the approbation of the then Secretary of State, Mr. Jefferson, he was instructed to desist.
What will Mr. Adams or his friends reply to all these facts? How will he be excused for indulging and declaring, on grounds so frivolous, a suspicion so derogatory of a man so meritorious—of a man who has acted in a manner so unexceptional?
But a more serious question remains: How will Mr. Adams answer to the government and to his country, for having thus wantonly given the sanction of his opinion to the worst of the aspersions which the enemies of the administration have impudently thrown upon it? Can we be surprised that such a torrent of slander was poured out against it, when a man, the second in official rank, the second in the favor of the friends of the government, stooped to become himself one of its calumniators? It is peculiarly unlucky for Mr. Adams in this affair, that he is known to have desired, at the time, the appointment which was given to Mr. Pinckney. The President declined the measure, thinking that it was compatible neither with the spirit of the Constitution nor with the dignity of the government, to designate the Vice-President to such a station.
This letter, better than volumes, develops the true, the unfortunate character of Mr. Adams.
The remaining causes of dissatisfaction with him, respect his conduct in the office of President, which, in my opinion, has been a heterogeneous compound of right and wrong, of wisdom and error.
The outset was distinguished by a speech which his friends lamented as temporizing. It had the air of a lure for the favor of his opponents at the expense of his sincerity; but being of an equivocal complexion, to which no precise design can be annexed, it is barely mentioned as a circumstance, which, in conjunction with others of a more positive tint, may serve to explain character.
It is in regard to our foreign relations, that the public measures of Mr. Adams first attract criticism.
It will be recollected that General Pinckney, the brother of Thomas, and the gentleman now supported together with Mr. Adams, had been deputed by President Washington as successor to Mr. Monroe, and had been refused to be received by the French Government in his quality of Minister Plenipotentiary.
This, among those of the well-informed, who felt a just sensibility for the honor of their country, excited much disgust and resentment. But the opposition party, ever too ready to justify the French Government at the expense of their own, vindicated or apologized for the ill-treatment: and the mass of the community, though displeased with it, did not appear to feel the full force of the indignity.
As a final effort for accommodation, and as a means, in case of failure, of enlightening and combining public opinion, it was resolved to make another, and a more solemn, experiment, in the form of a commission of three.
This measure (with some objections to the detail) was approved by all parties; by the anti-Federalists, because they thought no evil so great as the rupture with France; by the Federalists, because it was their system to avoid war with every power, if it could be done without the sacrifice of essential interests or absolute humiliation.
Even such of them as conceived that the insults of the French Government and the manifestation of its ill-will had already gone far enough to call for measures of vigor, perceiving that the nation was not generally penetrated with the same conviction, and would not support with zeal measures of that nature, unless their necessity was rendered still more apparent, acquiesced in the expediency of another mission. They hoped that it would serve either to compose the differences which existed, or to make the necessity of resistance to the violence of France palpable to every good citizen.
The expediency of the step was suggested to Mr. Adams, through a Federal channel, a considerable time before he determined to take it. He hesitated whether it could be done after the rejection of General Pinckney, without national debasement. The doubt was an honorable one; it was afterwards very properly surrendered to the cogent reasons which pleaded for a further experiment.
The event of this experiment is fresh in our recollection. Our envoys, like our minister were rejected. Tribute was demanded as a preliminary to negotiation. To their immortal honor, though France at the time was proudly triumphant, they repelled the disgraceful pretension. Americans will never forget that General Pinckney was a member, and an efficient member, of this commission.
This conduct of the French Government, in which it is difficult to say, whether despotic insolence or unblushing corruption was most prominent, electrified the American people with a becoming indignation. In vain the partisans of France attempted to extenuate. The public voice was distinct and audible. The nation, disdaining so foul an overture, was ready to encounter the worst consequences of resistance.
Without imitating the flatterers of Mr. Adams, who, in derogation from the intrinsic force of circumstances, and from the magnanimity of the nation, ascribe to him the whole merit of producing the spirit which appeared in the community, it shall with cheerfulness be acknowledged that he took upon the occasion a manly and courageous lead—that he did all in his power to rouse the pride of the nation—to inspire it with a just sense of the injuries and out-rages which it had experienced, and to dispose it to a firm and magnanimous resistance; and that his efforts contributed materially to that end.
The friends of the government were not agreed as to the ulterior measures. Some were for immediate and unqualified war; others for a more mitigated course; the dissolution of treaties, preparation of force by land and sea, partial hostilities of a defensive tendency; leaving to France the option of seeking accommodation, or proceeding to open war. The latter course prevailed.
Though not as bold and energetic as the other, yet, considering the prosperous state of French affairs when it was adopted, and how many nations had been appalled and prostrated by the French power, the conduct pursued bore sufficiently the marks of courage and elevation to raise the national character to an exalted height throughout Europe.
Much is it to be deplored that we should have been precipitated from this proud eminence without necessity, without temptation.
The latter conduct of the President forms a painful contrast to his commencement. Its effects have been directly the reverse. It has sunk the tone of the public mind—it has impaired the confidence of the friends of the government in the Executive Chief—it has distracted public opinion—it has unnerved the public councils—it has sown the seeds of discord at home, and lowered the reputation of the government abroad. The circumstances which preceded, aggravate the disagreeableness of the results. They prove that the injudicious things which have been enacted, were not the effects of any regular plan, but the fortuitous emanations of momentary impulses.
The session, which ensued the promulgation of the dispatches of our commissioners, was about to commence. Mr. Adams arrived at Philadelphia from his seat at Quincy. The tone of his mind seemed to have been raised, rather than depressed.
It was suggested to him that it might be expedient to insert in his speech to Congress, a sentiment of this import: That after the repeatedly rejected advances of this country, its dignity required that it should be left with France in future to make the first overture; that if, desirous of reconciliation, she should evince the disposition by sending a minister to this government, he would be received with the respect due to his character, and treated with in the frankness of a sincere desire of accommodation.
The suggestion was received in a manner both indignant and intemperate.
Mr. Adams declared, as a sentiment which he had adopted on mature reflection: That if France should send a minister to-morrow, he would order him back the day after.
So imprudent an idea was easily refuted. Little argument was requisite to show that, by a similar system of retaliation, when one government in a particular instance had refused the envoy of another, nations might entail upon each other perpetual hostility, mutually barring the avenues of explanation.
In less than forty-eight hours from this extra-ordinary sally, the mind of Mr. Adams underwent a total revolution; he resolved not only to insert in his speech the sentiment which had been proposed to him, but to go farther, and to declare, that if France would give explicit assurances of receiving a minister from this country, with due respect, he would send one.
In vain was this extension of the sentiment opposed by all his ministers, as being equally incompatible with good policy, and with the dignity of the nation; he obstinately persisted, and the pernicious declaration was introduced.
I call it pernicious, because it was the groundwork of the false steps which have succeeded.
The declaration recommended to the President was a prudent one.
The measures of Congress, by their mitigated form, showed that an eye had been still kept upon pacification. A numerous party were averse from war with France at any rate. In the rest of the community, a strong preference of honorable accommodation to final rupture was discernible, even amidst the effusions of resentment.
The charges which we had exhibited in the face of the world against the French Government, were of a high and disgraceful complexion; they had been urged with much point and emphasis.
To give an opening to France to make conciliatory propositions, some salve for her pride was necessary. It was also necessary she should be assured that she would not expose herself to an affront by a refusal to receive the agent whom she might employ for that purpose. The declaration proposed fulfilled both objects.
It was likely to have another important advantage. It would be a new proof to the American people of the moderate and pacific temper of their government; which would tend to preserve their confidence, and to dispose them more and more to meet inevitable extremities with fortitude and without murmurs.
But the supplement to the declaration was a blamable excess. It was more than sufficient for the ends to be answered. It waived the point of honor, which, after two rejections of our ministers, required that the next mission between the two countries should proceed from France. After the mortifying humiliations we had endured, the national dignity demanded that this point should not be departed from without necessity. No such necessity could be pretended to exist. Moreover, another mission by us would naturally be regarded as evidence of a disposition on our part to purchase the friendship of revolutionary France, even at the expense of honor; an impression which could hardly fail to injure our interests with other countries: and the measure would involve the further inconvenience of transferring the negotiation from this country, where our government could regulate it according to its own view of exigencies, to France, where that advantage would be enjoyed by her government, and where the power of judging for us must be delegated to commissioners, who, acting under immense individual responsibility, at a distance too great for consultation, would be apt to act with hesitancy and irresolution, whether the policy of the case required concession or firmness. This was to place it too much in the power of France to manage the progress of the negotiation according to events.
It has been said that Paris was wisely preferred as the place of negotiation, because it served to avoid the caballings of a French minister in this country. But there is not enough in this argument to counter-balance the weighty considerations on the other side. The intrigues of Genet and his successors were perplexing to the government, chiefly because they were too well seconded by the prepossessions of the people. The great alteration in public opinion had put it completely in the power of our Executive to control the machinations of any future public agent of France. It ought also to be remembered, that if France has not known agents, she never will be without secret ones, and that her partisans among our citizens can much better promote her cause than any agents she can send. In fact, her agents, by their blunders, were in the event rather useful than pernicious to our affairs.
But is it likely that France would have sent a minister to this country? When we find, that from calculations of policy she could brook the ignominy which the publication of the despatches of our commissioners was calculated to bring upon her; and stifling her resentment could invite the renewal of negotiation; what room can there be to doubt, that the same calculations would have induced her to send a minister to this country when an opening was given for it?
The French Minister for Foreign Relations, through the French diplomatic agent at The Hague, had opened a communication with Mr. Murray, our resident there, for the purpose of reviving negotiation between the two countries. In this manner, assurances were given that France was disposed to treat, and that a minister from us would be received and accredited. But they were accompanied with intimations of the characters proper to be employed, and who would be likely to succeed; which was exceptionable, both as it savored of the pretension (justly censured by the President himself) of prescribing to other governments how they were to manage their own affairs; and as it might, according to circumstances, be construed into a tacit condition of the promise to receive a minister. Overtures so circuitous and informal, through a person who was not the regular organ of the French Government for making them, to a person who was not the regular organ of the American Government for receiving them, might be a very fit mode of preparing the way for the like overtures in a more authentic and obligatory shape. But they were a very inadequate basis for the institution of a new mission.
When the President pledged himself in his speech to send a minister, if satisfactory assurances of a proper reception were given, he must have been understood to mean such as were direct and official, not such as were both informal and destitute of a competent sanction.
Yet upon this loose and vague foundation, Mr. Adams precipitately nominated Mr. Murray as Envoy to the French Republic, without previous consultation with any of his ministers. The nomination itself was to each of them, even to the Secretary of State, his constitutional counsellor in similar affairs, the first notice of the project.
Thus was the measure wrong, both as to mode and substance.
A President is not bound to conform to the advice of his ministers. He is even under no positive injunction to ask or require it. But the Constitution presumes that he will consult them; and the genius of our government and the public good recommend the practice.
As the President nominates his ministers, and may displace them when he pleases, it must be his own fault if he be not surrounded by men who, for ability and integrity, deserve his confidence. And if his ministers are of this character, the consulting of them will always be likely to be useful to himself and to the state. Let it even be supposed that he is a man of talents superior to the collected talents of all his ministers (which can seldom happen, as the world has seen but few Fredericks), he may, nevertheless, often assist his judgment by a comparison and collision of ideas. The greatest genius, hurried away by the rapidity of its own conceptions, will occasionally overlook obstacles which ordinary and more phlegmatic men will discover, and which, when presented to his consideration, will be thought by himself decisive objections to his plans.
When, unhappily, an ordinary man dreams himself to be a Frederick, and through vanity refrains from counselling with his constitutional advisers, he is very apt to fall into the hands of miserable intriguers, with whom his self-love is more at ease, and who without difficulty slide into his confidence, and by flattery govern him.
The ablest men may profit by advice. Inferior men cannot dispense with it; and if they do not get it through legitimate channels, it will find its way to them through such as are clandestine and impure.
Very different from the practice of Mr. Adams was that of the modest and sage Washington. He consulted much, pondered much, resolved slowly, resolved surely.
And as surely, Mr. Adams might have benefited by the advice of his ministers.
The stately system of not consulting ministers is likely to have a further disadvantage. It will tend to exclude from places of primary trust the men most fit to occupy them.
Few and feeble are the inducements to accept a place in our administration. Far from being lucrative, there is not one which will not involve pecuniary sacrifice to every honest man of pre-eminent talents. And has not experience shown, that he must be fortunate indeed, if even the successful execution of his task can secure to him consideration and fame? Of a large harvest of obloquy he is sure.
If excluded from the counsels of the Executive Chief, his office must become truly insignificant. What able and virtuous man will long consent to be so miserable a pageant?
Every thing that tends to banish from the administration able men, tends to diminish the chances of able counsels. The probable operation of a system of this kind, must be to consign places of the highest trust to incapable honest men, whose inducement will be a livelihood, or to capable dishonest men, who will seek indirect indemnifications for the deficiency of direct and fair inducements.
The precipitate nomination of Mr. Murray, brought Mr. Adams into an awkward predicament.
He found it necessary to change his plan in its progress, and instead of one, to nominate three envoys, and to superadd a promise, that, though appointed, they should not leave the United States till further and more perfect assurances were given by the French Government.
This remodification of the measure was a virtual acknowledgment that it had been premature. How unseemly was this fluctuation in the Executive Chief. It argued either instability of views, or want of sufficient consideration beforehand. The one or the other, in an affair of so great moment, is a serious reproach.
Additional and more competent assurances were received; but before the envoys departed, intelligence arrived of a new revolution in the French Government; which, in violation of the Constitution, had expelled two of the Directory.
Another revolution: another Constitution overthrown. Surely here was reason for a pause, at least till it was ascertained that the new Directory would adhere to the engagement of its predecessors, and would not send back our envoys with disgrace.
In the then posture of French affairs, which externally as well as internally were unprosperous, a pause was every way prudent. The recent revolution was a valid motive for it.
Definite compacts between nations, called real treaties, are binding, notwithstanding revolutions of governments. But to apply the maxim to ministerial acts, preparatory only to negotiation, is to extend it too far; to apply it to such acts of an unstable revolutionary government (like that of France at that time) is to abuse it.
Had any policy of the moment demanded it, it would have been not at all surprising to have seen the new Directory disavowing the assurance which had been given, and imputing it as a crime to the ex-directors, on the pretence that they had prostrated the dignity of the republic by courting the renewal of negotiation with a government which had so grossly insulted it.
Yet our envoys were dispatched without a ratification of the assurance by the new Directory, at the hazard of the interests and the honor of the country.
Again, the dangerous and degrading system of not consulting ministers, was acted upon.
When the news of the revolution in the Directory arrived, Mr. Adams was at his seat in Massachusetts. His ministers addressed to him a joint letter, communicating the intelligence, and submitting to his consideration, whether that event ought not to suspend the projected mission. In a letter which he afterwards wrote from the same place, he directed the preparation of a draft of instructions for the envoys, and intimated that their departure would be suspended for some time.
Shortly after he came to Trenton, where he adjusted with his ministers the tenor of the instructions to be given; but he observed a profound silence on the question, whether it was expedient that the mission should proceed. The morning after the instructions were settled, he signified to the Secretary of State that the envoys were immediately to depart.
He is reported to have assigned as the reason of his silence, that he knew the opinions of his ministers from their letter; that he had irrevocably adopted an opposite one; and that he deemed it most delicate not to embarrass them by a useless discussion.
But would it not have been more prudent to have kept his judgment in some degree of suspense, till after an interview and discussion with his ministers? Ought he to have taken it for granted that the grounds of his opinion were so infallible that there was no possibility of arguments being used which were sufficient to shake them? Ought he not to have recollected the sudden revolution which his judgment had undergone in the beginning of the business, and to have inferred from this that it might have yielded in another instance to better lights? Was it necessary for him, if he had had a conference with his ministers, to have alarmed their delicacy by prefacing the discussion with a declaration that he had fixed an unalterable opinion? Did not the intimation respecting a suspension of the departure of the envoys, imply that this would continue till there was a change of circumstances? Was it not a circumstance to strengthen expectation in the ministers, when consulted about the instructions, that they would be heard as to the principal point, previous to a definitive resolution?
Giving Mr. Adams credit for sincerity, the desultoriness of his mind is evinced by the very different grounds upon which, at different times, he has defended the propriety of the mission.
Sometimes he has treated with ridicule the idea of its being a measure which would terminate in peace; asserting that France would not accommodate, on terms admissible by the United States, and that the effect to be expected from the mission was the demonstration of this truth, and the union of public opinion on the necessity of war.
Sometimes, and most frequently, he has vindicated the measure as one conformable with the general and strong wish of the country for peace, and as likely to promote that desirable object.
It is now earnestly to be hoped, that the final issue of the mission, in an honorable accommodation, may compensate for the sacrifice of consistency, dignity, harmony, and reputation, at which it has been undertaken.
But even in relation to the adjustment of differences with the French Republic, the measure was injudicious. It was probable that it would delay rather than accelerate such an adjustment.
The situation of French affairs, at the time of the overtures for renewing the negotiation, coincides with the solicitude which was manifested for that object, to render it likely that, at this juncture, France really desired accommodation. If this was so, it is presumable (as observed in another place) that, had not the declaration about sending a minister to her intervened, she would have sent one to us, with adequate powers and instructions. Towards a minister here, our government might have acted such a part as would have hastened a conclusion; and the minister, conforming to the impressions of his government when he was sent, it is not improbable that a desirable arrangement might some time since have been effected.
Instead of this the mode pursued naturally tended to delay. A lapse of time, by changing the circumstances, is very apt to change the views of governments. The French agents, charged with the negotiation at Paris, could find little difficulty in protracting it till events (such as the fate of a campaign) should be ascertained, as a guide to rise or fall in their pretensions. And in this way, obstacles might supervene which would not have existed in the beginning, and which might render accommodation impracticable—or practicable only on terms injurious to our interests.
Thus, on every just calculation, whatever may be the issue, the measure, in reference either to our internal or foreign affairs, even to our concerns with France herself, was alike impolitic.
It is sometimes defended by the argument, that when our commissioners departed, there were circumstances in the position of Europe which made a general peace during the succeeding winter probable, and that it would have been dangerous for this country, remote as it is from Europe, to have been without agents on the spot authorized to settle its controversy with France, at the same epoch. The country, it is said, might otherwise have been left in the perilous situation of having a subsisting quarrel with France, after she had disembarrassed herself of all her European enemies.
The idea that a general peace was likely to happen during that winter, was, I know, entertained by Mr. Adams himself; for, in a casual conversation at Trenton, he expressed it to me, and I supported a different opinion. But waiving now a discussion of the point, and admitting that the expectation was entertained on substantial grounds, though it has not been verified by experience, still the argument deduced from it is not valid.
The expediency of the measure must be tested by the state of things when it had its inception. At the time the foundation was laid for it by the speech, when even the nomination of Mr. Murray took place, the affairs of France and of her enemies portended a result very inauspicious to her, and very different from that of a general peace, on conditions which would leave her the inclination or the power to prosecute hostilities against this country.
But even on the supposition of other prospects, Mr. Adams had the option of a substitute far preferable to the expedient which he chose.
He might secretly and confidentially have nominated one or more of our ministers actually abroad for the purpose of treating with France; with eventual instructions predicated upon appearances of an approaching peace.
An expedient of this sort, merely provisory, could have had none of the bad effects of the other. If the secret was kept, it could have had no inconvenient consequences; if divulged, it would have been deemed here and elsewhere, a prudent precaution only, recommended by the distant situation of the country, to meet future casualties, with which we might otherwise not have been able to keep pace. To the enemies of France, it could have given no ill impression of us; to France, no motive to forbear other conciliatory means, for one and the same reason, namely, because the operation was to be eventual.
There are some collateral incidents connected with this business of the mission, which it may not be useless to mention, as they will serve still further to illustrate the extreme propensity of Mr. Adams’ temper to jealousy.
It happened that I arrived at Trenton a short time before the President—Chief-Justice Ellsworth a short time after him. This was considered as evidence of a combination between the heads of departments, the Chief-Justice, and myself, to endeavor to influence or counteract him in the affair of the mission.
The truth, nevertheless, most certainly is, that I went to Trenton with General Wilkinson, pursuant to a preconcert with him of some weeks’ standing, to accelerate by personal conferences with the Secretary of War, the adoption and execution of arrangements which had been planned between that general and myself, for the future disposition of the Western army; that when I left New York upon this journey, I had no expectation whatever that the President would come to Trenton, and that I did not stay at this place a day longer than was indispensable to the object I have stated. General Wilkinson, if necessary, might be appealed to, not only as knowing that this was a real and sincere purpose of my journey, but as possessing satisfactory evidence, that in all probability I had no anticipation of the movement of the President.
As to Chief-Justice Ellsworth, the design of his journey was understood to be to meet his colleague, Governor Davie, at the seat of the government, where they would be at the fountain-head of information, and would obtain any lights or explanations which they might suppose useful. This was manifestly a very natural and innocent solution of the Chief-Justice’s visit, and I believe the true one.
Yet these simple occurrences were, to the jealous mind of Mr. Adams, “confirmation strong,” of some mischievous plot against his independence.
The circumstance, which next presents itself to examination, is the dismission of the two secretaries, Pickering and McHenry. This circumstance, it is known, occasioned much surprise, and a strong sensation to the disadvantage of Mr. Adams.
It happened at a peculiar juncture, immediately after the unfavorable turn of the election in New York, and had much the air of an explosion of combustible materials which had been long prepared, but which had been kept down by prudential calculations respecting the effect of an explosion upon the friends of those ministers in the State of New York. Perhaps, when it was supposed that nothing could be lost in this quarter, and that something might be gained elsewhere by an atoning sacrifice of those ministers, especially Mr. Pickering, who had been for some time particularly odious to the opposition party, it was determined to proceed to extremities. This, as a mere conjecture, is offered for as much as it may be worth.
One fact, however, is understood to be admitted, namely, that neither of the dismissed ministers had given any new or recent cause for their dismission.
A primary cause of the state of things which led to this event, is to be traced to the ungovernable temper of Mr. Adams. It is a fact that he is often liable to paroxysms of anger, which deprive him of self-command, and produce very outrageous behavior to those who approach him. Most, if not all his ministers, and several distinguished members of the two houses of Congress, have been humiliated by the effects of these gusts of passion.
This violence, and the little consideration for them which was implied in declining to consult them, had occasioned great dryness between the President and his ministers, except, I believe, the Secretary of the Navy.
The neglect was, of course, most poignant to Mr. Pickering, because it had repeatedly operated in matters appertaining to his office. Nor was it in the disposition of this respectable man, justly tenacious of his own dignity and independence, to practise condescensions towards an imperious chief. Hence the breach constantly grew wider and wider, till a separation took place.
The manner of the dismission was abrupt and uncourteous; ill suited to a man who, in different stations, had merited so much from his country.
Admitting that when the President and his minister had gotten into a situation thus unpleasant, a separation was unavoidable; still, as there was no surmise of misconduct, the case required a frank politeness, not an uncouth austerity.
But the remark most interesting in this particular to the character of the President, is, that it was by his own fault that he was brought into a situation which might oblige him to displace a minister, whose moral worth has his own suffrage, and whose abilities and services have that of the public.
The dismission of this minister was preceded by a very curious circumstance. It was, without doubt announced as a thing shortly to happen in an opposition circle, before any friend of the government had the slightest suspicion of it. This circumstance, taken in connection with the period at which it happened, naturally provokes the conjecture that there may have been some collateral inducements to the step.
The dismission of the Secretary at War took place about the same time. It was declared in the sequel of a long conversation between the President and him, of a nature to excite alternately pain and laughter: pain, for the weak and excessive indiscretions of a Chief Magistrate of the United States; laughter at the ludicrous topics which constituted charges against this officer.
A prominent charge was, that the Secretary, in a report to the House of Representatives, had eulogized General Washington, and had attempted to eulogize General Hamilton, which was adduced as one proof of a combination, in which the Secretary was engaged, to depreciate and injure him, the President.
Wonderful! passing wonderful! that a eulogy of the dead patriot and hero, of the admired and beloved Washington, consecrated in the affections and reverence of his country, should, in any shape, be irksome to the ears of his successor!
Singular, also, that an encomium on the officer, first in rank in the armies of the United States, appointed and continued by Mr. Adams, should in his eyes have been a crime in the head of the War Department, and that it should be necessary, in order to avert his displeasure, to obliterate a compliment to that officer from an official report.
Another principal topic of accusation was, that the Secretary had, with the other ministers, signed the joint letter, which had been addressed to the President respecting a suspension of the mission to France. It was ostentatiously asked, how he or they should pretend to know any thing of diplomatic affairs; and it was plainly intimated that it was presumption in them to have intermeddled in such affairs.
A variety of things equally frivolous and outré passed. By way of episode, it fell to my lot to be distinguished by a torrent of gross personal abuse; and I was accused of having contributed to the loss of the election in New York, out of ill-will to Mr. Adams: a notable expedient truly for giving vent to my ill-will. Who is so blind as not to see, that, if actuated by such a motive, I should have preferred, by the success of the election, to have secured the choice of electors for the State of New York, who would have been likely to co-operate in the views by which I was governed?
To those who have not had opportunities of closely inspecting the weakness of Mr. Adams’ character, the details of this extraordinary interview would appear incredible; but to those who have had these opportunities, they would not even furnish an occasion of surprise. But they would be, to all who knew their truth, irrefragable proofs of his unfitness for the station of Chief Magistrate.
Ill treatment of Mr. McHenry cannot fail to awaken the sympathy of every person well acquainted with him. Sensible, judicious, well-informed, of an integrity never questioned, of a temper, which, though firm in the support of principles, has too much moderation and amenity to offend by the manner of doing it—I dare pronounce that he never gave Mr. Adams cause to treat him, as he did, with unkindness. If Mr. Adams thought that his execution of his office indicated a want of the peculiar qualifications required for it, he might have said so with gentleness, and he would have only exercised a prerogative intrusted to him by the Constitution, to which no blame could have attached; but it was unjustifiable to aggravate the deprivation of office by humiliating censures and bitter reproaches.
The last material occurrence in the administration of Mr. Adams, of which I shall take notice, is the pardon of Fries, and other principals in the late insurrection in Pennsylvania.
It is a fact that a very refractory spirit has long existed in the western counties of that State. Repeatedly have its own laws been opposed with violence, and as often, according to my information, with impunity.
It is also a fact, which everybody knows, that the laws of the Union, in the vital article of revenue, have been twice resisted in the same State by combinations so extensive, and under circumstances so violent, as to have called for the employment of military force; once under the former President, and once under the actual President; which together cost the United States nearly a million and a half of dollars.
In the first instance it happened, that by the early submission of most of the leaders, upon an invitation of the government, few offenders of any consequence remained subject to prosecution. Of these, either from the humanity of the juries or some deficiency in the evidence, not one was capitally convicted. Two poor wretches only were sentenced to die, one of them little short of an idiot, the other a miserable follower in the hindmost train of rebellion, both being so insignificant in all respects, that after the lenity shown to the chiefs, justice would have worn the mien of ferocity, if she had raised her arm against them. The sentiment that their punishment ought to be remitted was universal; and the President, yielding to the special considerations, granted them pardons.
In the last instance, some of the most important of the offenders were capitally convicted—one of them by the verdicts of two successive juries. The general opinion of the friends of the government demanded an example, as indispensable to its security.
The opinion was well founded. Two insurrections in the same State, the one upon the heels of the other, demonstrated a spirit of insubordination or disaffection which required a strong corrective. It is a disagreeable fact, forming a weighty argument in the question, that a large part of the population of Pennsylvania is of a composition which peculiarly fits it for the intrigues of factious men, who may desire to disturb or overthrow the government. And it is an equally disagreeable fact, that disaffection to the national government is in no other State more general, more deeply rooted, or more envenomed.
The late Governor Mifflin himself informed me that, in the first case, insurrection had been organized down to the very liberties of Philadelphia, and that, had not the government anticipated it, a general explosion would speedily have ensued.
It ought to be added, that the impunity so often experienced had made it an article in the creed of those who were actuated by the insurgent spirit, that neither the General nor the State Government dared to inflict capital punishment.
To destroy this persuasion, to repress this dangerous spirit, it was essential that a salutary rigor should have been exerted, and that those who were under the influence of the one and the other should be taught that they were the dupes of a fatal illusion.
Of this Mr. Adams appeared so sensible, that, while the trials were pending, he more than once imprudently threw out that the accused must found their hopes of escape either in their innocence or in the lenity of the juries; since from him, in case of conviction, they would have nothing to expect. And a very short time before he pardoned them he declared,1 with no small ostentation, that the mistaken clemency of Washington on the former occasion had been the cause of the second insurrection, and that he would take care there should not be a third, by giving the laws their full course against the convicted offenders.
Yet he thought proper, as if distrusting the courts and officers of the United States, to resort, through the Attorney-General, to the counsel of the culprits for a statement of their cases1; in which was found, besides some objections of form, the novel doctrine, disavowed by every page of our law books, that treason does not consist of resistance by force to a public law, unless it be an act relative to the militia, or other military force.
And upon this or upon some other ground, not easy to be comprehended, he of a sudden departed from all his former declarations, and, against the unanimous advice of his ministers, with the Attorney-General, came to the resolution, which he executed, of pardoning all those who had received sentence of death.
No wonder that the public was thunderstruck at such a result—that the friends of the government regarded it as a virtual dereliction. It was impossible to commit a greater error. The particular situation of Pennsylvania, the singular posture of human affairs, in which there is so strong a tendency to the disorganization of government; the turbulent and malignant humors which exist, and are so industriously nourished throughout the United States; every thing loudly demanded that the Executive should have acted with exemplary vigor, and should have given a striking demonstration that condign punishment would be the lot of the violent opposers of the laws.
The contrary course, which was pursued, is the most inexplicable part of Mr. Adams’ conduct. It shows him so much at variance with himself, as well as with sound policy, that we are driven to seek a solution for it in some system of concession to his political enemies; a system the most fatal for himself, and for the cause of public order, of any that he could possibly devise. It is by temporizings like these that men at the head of affairs lose the respect both of friends and foes; it is by temporizings like these that, in times of fermentation and commotion, governments are prostrated, which might easily have been upheld by an erect and imposing attitude.
I have now gone through the principal circumstances in Mr. Adams’ conduct which have served to produce my disapprobation of him as Chief Magistrate. I pledge my veracity and honor that I have stated none which are not either derived from my own knowledge, or from sources of information in the highest degree worthy of credit.
I freely submit it, sir, to your judgment, whether the grounds of the opinion I have expressed are not weighty; and whether they are not sufficient to exculpate those Federalists, who favor the equal support of Mr. Pinckney, from all blame, and myself, in particular, from the unworthy imputation of being influenced by private resentment.
At the same time, I will admit, though it should detract from the force of my representations, that I have causes of personal dissatisfaction with Mr. Adams. It is not my practice to trouble others with my individual concerns; nor should I do it at present, but for the suggestions which have been made. Even with this incentive, I shall do it as little as possible.
The circumstances of my late military situation have much less to do with my personal discontent than some others. In respect to them, I shall only say, that I owed my appointment to the station and rank I held, to the express stipulation of General Washington, when he accepted the command of the army, afterwards peremptorily insisted upon by him in opposition to the strong wishes of the President; and that, though second in rank, I was not promoted to the first place when it became vacant by the death of the commander-in-chief. As to the former, I should have had no cause to complain, if there had not been an apparent inconsistency in the measures of the President; if he had not nominated me first on the list of major-generals, and attempted afterwards to place me third in rank. As to the latter, the chief command, not being a matter of routine, the not promoting me to it cannot be deemed a wrong or injury; yet certainly I could not see in the omission any proof of good-will or confidence, or of a disposition to console me for the persecutions which I had incessantly endured. But I dismiss the subject, leaving to others to judge of my pretensions to the promotion, and of the weight, if any, which they ought to have had with the President.
On other topics, my sensations are far less neutral. If, as I have been assured from respectable authorities, Mr. Adams has repeatedly indulged himself in virulent and indecent abuse of me; if he has denominated me a man destitute of every moral principle; if he has stigmatized me as the leader of a British faction; then, certainly, I have a right to think that I have been most cruelly and wickedly traduced; then have I a right to appeal to all those who have been spectators of my public actions; to all who are acquainted with my private character in its various relations, whether such treatment of me by Mr. Adams is of a nature to weaken or strengthen his claim to the approbation of wise and good men; then will I so far yield to the consciousness of what I am, as to declare, that in the cardinal points of public and private rectitude, above all, in pure and disinterested zeal for the interests and service of this country, I shrink not from a comparison with any arrogant pretender to superior and exclusive merit.
Having been repeatedly informed that Mr. Adams had delineated me as the leader of a British faction, and having understood that his partisans, to counteract the influence of my opinion, were pressing the same charge against me, I wrote him a letter on the subject, dated the first of August last. No reply having been given by him to this letter, I, on the first of the present month, wrote him another; of both which letters I send you copies.
Of the purity of my public conduct in this, as in other particulars, I may defy the severest investigation.
Not only is it impossible for any man to give color to this absurd charge by a particle of proof, or by any reasonable presumption; but I am able to show that my conduct has uniformly given the lie to it.
I never advised any connection1 with Great Britain other than a commercial one; and in this I never advocated the giving to her any privilege or advantage which was not to be imparted to other nations. With regard to her pretensions as a belligerent power in relation to neutrals, my opinions, while in the administration, to the best of my recollection, coincided with those of Mr. Jefferson. When, in the year 1793, her depredations on our commerce discovered a hostile spirit, I recommended one definitive effort to terminate differences by negotiation, to be followed, if unsuccessful, by a declaration of war. I urged, in the most earnest manner, the friends of the administration, in both houses of Congress, to prepare by sea and land for the alternative, to the utmost extent of our resources; and to an extent far exceeding that to which any member of either party was found willing to go. For this alternative, I became so firmly pledged to the friends and enemies of the administration, and especially to the President of the United States, in writing as well as verbally, that I could not afterwards have retracted without a glaring and disgraceful inconsistency. And being thus pledged, I explicitly gave it as my opinion to Mr. Jay, Envoy to Great Britain, that “unless an adjustment of the differences with her could be effected on solid terms, it would be better to do nothing.” When the treaty arrived, it was not without full deliberation and some hesitation, that I resolved to support it. The articles relative to the settlement of differences were upon the whole satisfactory; but there were a few of the others which appeared to me of a different character. The article respecting contraband, though conformable with the general law of nations, was not in all its features such as could have been wished. The XXVth article, which gave asylum in our ports, under certain exceptions, to privateers with their prizes, was in itself an ineligible one, being of a nature to excite the discontent of nations against whom it should operate, and deriving its justification from the example before set of an equivalent stipulation in our treaty with France. The X☑th article was, in my view, inadmissible. The enlightened negotiator, not unconscious that some parts of the treaty were less well arranged than was to be desired, had himself hesitated to sign; but he had resigned his scruples to the conviction that nothing better could be effected, and that, aggregately considered, the instrument would be advantageous to the United States. On my part, the result of mature reflection was, that as the subjects of controversy which had threatened the peace of the two nations, and which implicated great interests of this country, were in the essential points well adjusted, and as the other articles would expire in twelve years after the ratification of the treaty, it would be wise and right to confirm the compact, with the exception of the XIIth article. Nevertheless, when an account was received that the British cruisers had seized provisions going to ports of the French dominions, not in fact blockaded or besieged, I advised the President to ratify the treaty conditionally only—that is, with express instructions not to exchange ratifications, unless the British Government would disavow a construction of the instrument authorizing the practice, and would discontinue it.
After the rejection of Mr. Pinckney by the government of France, immediately after the instalment of Adams as President, and long before the measure was taken, I urged a member of Congress, then high in the confidence of the President, to propose to him the immediate appointment of three commissioners, of whom Mr. Jefferson or Mr. Madison to be one, to make another attempt to negotiate. And when afterwards commissioners were appointed, I expressly gave it as my opinion, that indemnification for spoliations should not be a sine qua non of accommodation. In fine, I have been disposed to go greater lengths to avoid rupture with France than with Great Britain; to make greater sacrifices for reconciliation with the former than with the latter.
In making this avowal, I owe it to my own character to say, that the disposition I have confessed, did not proceed from predilection for France (revolutionary France, after her early beginnings, has been always to me an object of horror), nor from the supposition that more was to be feared from France, as an enemy, than from Great Britain (I thought that the maritime power of the latter could do us much mischief), but from the persuasion that the sentiments and prejudices of our country would render war with France a more unmanageable business than war with Great Britain.
Let any fair man pronounce, whether the circumstances which have been disclosed bespeak the partisan of Great Britain, or the man exclusively devoted to the interests of this country. Let any delicate man decide, whether it must not be shocking to an ingenuous mind, to have to combat a slander so vile, after having sacrificed the interests of his family, and devoted the best part of his life to the service of that country, in counsel and in the field.
It is time to conclude. This statement, which has been made, shows that Mr. Adams has committed some positive and serious errors of administration; that in addition to these, he has certain fixed points of character which tend naturally to the detriment of any cause of which he is the chief, of any administration of which he is the head; that by his ill humors and jealousies he has already divided and distracted the supporters of the government; that he has furnished deadly weapons to its enemies by unfounded accusations, and has weakened the force of its friends by decrying some of the most influential of them to the utmost of his power; and let it be added, as the necessary effect of such conduct, that he has made great progress in undermining the ground which was gained for the government by his predecessor, and that there is real cause to apprehend it might totter, if not fall, under his future auspices. A new government, constructed on free principles, is always weak, and must stand in need of the props of a firm and good administration, till time shall have rendered its authority venerable, and fortified it by habits of obedience.
Yet with this opinion of Mr. Adams, I have finally resolved not to advise the withholding from him a single vote. The body of Federalists, for want of sufficient knowledge of facts, are not convinced of the expediency of relinquishing him. It is even apparent, that a large proportion still retain the attachment which was once a common sentiment. Those of them, therefore, who are dissatisfied, as far as my information goes, are, generally speaking, willing to forbear opposition, and to acquiesce in the equal support of Mr. Adams with Mr. Pinckney, whom they prefer. Have they not a claim to equal deference from those who continue attached to the former? Ought not these, in candor, to admit the possibility that the friends who differ from them act not only from pure motives, but from cogent reasons? Ought they not, by a co-operation in General Pinckney, to give a chance for what will be a safe issue, supposing that they are right in their preference, and the best issue, should they happen to be mistaken? Especially, since by doing this they will increase the probability of excluding a third candidate, of whose unfitness all sincere Federalists are convinced. If they do not pursue this course, they will certainly incur an immense responsibility to their friends and to the government.
To promote this co-operation, to defend my own character, to vindicate those friends, who with myself have been unkindly aspersed, are the inducements for writing this letter. Accordingly, it will be my endeavor to regulate the communication of it in such a manner as will not be likely to deprive Mr. Adams of a single vote. Indeed, it is much my wish that its circulation could forever be confined within narrow limits. I am sensible of the inconveniences of giving publicity to a similar development of the character of the Chief Magistrate of our country; and I lament the necessity of taking a step which will involve that result. Yet to suppress truths, the disclosure of which is so interesting to the public welfare as well as to the vindication of my friends and myself, did not appear to me justifiable.
The restraints, to which I submit, are a proof of my disposition to sacrifice to the prepossessions of those, with whom I have heretofore thought and acted, and from whom in the present question I am compelled to differ. To refrain from a decided opposition to Mr. Adams’ re-election has been reluctantly sanctioned by my judgment; which has been not a little perplexed between the unqualified conviction of his unfitness for the station contemplated, and a sense of the great importance of cultivating harmony among the supporters of the government; on whose firm union hereafter will probably depend the preservation of order, tranquillity, liberty, property; the security of every social and domestic blessing.
hamilton to adams1
August 1, 1800.
Sir:—It has been repeatedly mentioned to me, that you have, on different occasions, asserted the existence of a British faction in this country; embracing a number of leading or influential characters of the Federal party (as usually denominated), and that you have sometimes named me, at others plainly alluded to me, as one of this description of persons. And I have likewise been assured, that of late some of your warm admirers, for electioneering purposes, have employed a corresponding language.
I must, Sir, take it for granted, that you cannot have made such assertions or insinuations, without being willing to avow them, and to assign the reasons to a party who may conceive himself injured by them. I therefore trust, that you will not deem it improper, that I apply directly to yourself to ascertain from you, in reference to your own declarations, whether the information I have received has been correct or not; and if correct, what are the grounds upon which you have founded the suggestion.
With respect I have the honor to be,
Sir, your obedient servant,
October 1, 1800.
Sir:—The time which has elapsed since my letter of the first of August was delivered to you, precludes the further expectation of an answer.
From this silence, I will draw no inference; nor will I presume to judge of the fitness of silence on such an occasion on the part of the Chief Magistrate of a republic, towards a citizen who, without a stain, has discharged so many important public trusts.
But this much I will affirm, that by whomsoever a charge of the kind mentioned in my former letter, may, at any time, have been made or insinuated against me, it is a base, wicked, and cruel calumny; destitute even of a plausible pretext, to excuse the folly, or mask the depravity which must have dictated it.
With due respect, I have the honor to be,
Sir, your obedient servant,
THE REYNOLDS PAMPHLET
THE REYNOLDS PAMPHLET1
Observations on Certain Documents contained in Nos. V. and VI. of The History of the United States for the Year 1796, in which the Charge of Speculation against Alexander Hamilton, late Secretary of the Treasury, is fully refuted. Written by himself. Philadelphia: Printed for John Fenno, by John Bioren, 1797.
The spirit of Jacobinism, if not entirely a new spirit, has at least been clothed with a more gigantic body and armed with more powerful weapons than it ever before possessed.
It is perhaps not too much to say, that it threatens more extensive and complicated mischiefs to the world than have hitherto flowed from the three great scourges of mankind, WAR, PESTILENCE, and FAMINE. To what point it will ultimately lead society, it is impossible for human foresight to pronounce; but there is just ground to apprehend that its progress may be marked with calamities of which the dreadful incidents of the French Revolution afford a very faint image. Incessantly busy in undermining all the props of public security and private happiness, it seems to threaten the political and moral world with a complete overthrow.
A principal engine, by which this spirit endeavors to accomplish its purposes, is that of calumny. It is essential to its success that the influence of men of upright principles, disposed and able to resist its enterprises, shall be at all events destroyed, Not content with traducing their best efforts for the public good, with misrepresenting their purest motives, with inferring criminality from actions innocent or laudable, the most direct falsehoods are invented and propagated with undaunted effrontery and unrelenting perseverance. Lies often detected and refuted are still revived and repeated, in the hope that the refutation may have been forgotten, or that the frequency and boldness of accusation may supply the place of proof. The most profligate men are encouraged, probably bribed, certainly with patronage if not with money, to become informers and accusers. And when tales, which their character alone ought to discredit, are refuted by evidence and facts which oblige the patrons of them to abandon their support, they will continue in corroding whispers to wear away the reputations which they could not directly subvert. If, luckily for the conspirators against honest fame, any little foible or folly can be traced out in one whom they desire to persecute, it becomes at once in their hands a two-edged sword, by which to wound the public character and stab the private felicity of the person. With such men, nothing is sacred. Even the peace of an unoffending and amiable wife is a welcome repast to their insatiate fury against the husband.
In the gratification of this baleful spirit, we not only hear the Jacobin newspapers continually ring with odious insinuations and charges against many of our most virtuous citizens; but, not satisfied with this, a measure new in this country has been lately adopted to give greater efficacy to the system of defamation—periodical pamphlets issue from the same presses, full freighted with misrepresentation and falsehood, artfully calculated to hold up the opponents of the FACTION to the jealousy and distrust of the present generation, and, if possible, to transmit their names with dishonor to posterity. Even the great and multiplied services, the tried and rarely equalled virtues, of a WASHINGTON, can secure no exemption.
How then can I, with pretensions every way inferior, expect to escape? And if truly this be, as every appearance indicates, a conspiracy of vice against virtue, ought I not rather to be flattered, that I have been so long and so peculiarly an object of persecution? Ought I to regret, if there be any thing about me so formidable to the FACTION as to have made me worthy to be distinguished by the plenitude of its rancor and venom?
It is certain that I have had a pretty copious experience of its malignity. For the honor of human nature, it is to be hoped that the examples are not numerous of men so greatly calumniated and persecuted as I have been, with so little cause.
I dare appeal to my immediate fellow-citizens, of whatever political party, for the truth of the assertion, that no man ever carried into public life a more unblemished pecuniary reputation, than that with which I undertook the office of Secretary of the Treasury; a character marked by indifference to the acquisition of property rather than by avidity for it.
With such a character, however natural it was to expect criticism and opposition, as to the political principles which I might manifest or be supposed to entertain, as to the wisdom or expediency of the plans, which I might propose, or as to the skill, care, or diligence with which the business of my department might be executed, it was not natural to expect, nor did I expect, that my fidelity or integrity in a pecuniary sense would ever be called into question.
But on this head a mortifying disappointment has been experienced. Without the slightest foundation, I have been repeatedly held up to the suspicions of the world as a man directed in his administration by the most sordid views; who did not scruple to sacrifice the public to his private interest, his duty and honor to the sinister accumulation of wealth.
Merely because I retained an opinion once common to me and the most influential of those who opposed me, that the public debt ought to be provided for on the basis of the contract upon which it was created, I have been wickedly accused with wantonly increasing the public burthen many millions in order to promote a stock-jobbing interest of myself and friends.
Merely because a member of the House of Representatives entertained a different idea from me, as to the legal effect of appropriation laws, and did not understand accounts, I was exposed to the imputation of having committed a deliberate and criminal violation of the laws, and to the suspicion of being a defaulter for millions; so as to have been driven to the painful necessity of calling for a formal and solemn inquiry.
The inquiry took place. It was conducted by a committee of fifteen members of the House of Representatives—a majority of them either my decided political enemies or inclined against me, some of them the most active and intelligent of my opponents, without a single man, who, being known to be friendly to me, possessed also such knowledge and experience of public affairs as would enable him to counteract injurious intrigues. MR. GILES, of Virginia, who had commenced the attack, was of the committee.
The officers and books of the treasury were examined. The transactions between the several banks and the treasury were scrutinized. Even my private accounts with those institutions were laid open to the committee; and every possible facility given to the inquiry. The result was a complete demonstration that the suspicions that had been entertained were groundless.
Those which had taken the fastest hold were, that the public monies had been made subservient to loans, discounts, and accommodations to myself and friends. The committee in reference to this point reported thus: “It appears, from the affidavits of the cashier and several officers of the Bank of the United States and several of the directors, the cashier, and other officers of the Bank of New York, that the Secretary of the Treasury never has either directly or indirectly, for himself or any other person, procured any discount or credit from either of the said banks upon the basis of any public monies which at any time have been deposited therein under his direction: And the committee are satisfied, that no monies of the United States, whether before or after they have passed to the credit of the Treasurer, have ever been directly or indirectly used for or applied to any purposes but those of the government, except so far as all monies deposited in a bank are concerned in the general operations thereof.”
The report, which I have always understood was unanimous, contains in other respects, with considerable detail, the materials of a complete exculpation. My enemies, finding no handle for their malice, abandoned the pursuit.
Yet unwilling to leave any ambiguity upon the point, when I determined to resign my office, I gave early previous notice of it to the House of Representatives, for the declared purpose of affording an opportunity for legislative crimination, if any ground for it had been discovered. Not the least step towards it was taken. From which I have a right to infer the universal conviction of the House, that no cause existed, and to consider the result as a complete vindication.
On another occasion, a worthless man of the name of Fraunces found encouragement to bring forward to the House of Representatives a formal charge against me of unfaithful conduct in office. A Committee of the House was appointed to inquire, consisting in this case, also, partly of some of my most intelligent and active enemies. The issue was an unanimous exculpation of me, as will appear by the following extract from the journals of the House of Representatives of the 19th of February, 1794:
“The House resumed the consideration of the report of the Committee, to whom was referred the memorial of Andrew G. Fraunces: whereupon,
“Resolved, That the reasons assigned by the Secretary of the Treasury for refusing payment of the warrants referred to in the memorial, are fully sufficient to justify his conduct; and that, in the whole course of this transaction, the Secretary and other officers of the Treasury have acted a meritorious part towards the public.
“Resolved, That the charge exhibited in the memorial against the Secretary of the Treasury, relative to the purchase of the pension of Baron de Glaubeck, is wholly illiberal and groundless.”1
Was it not to have been expected that these repeated demonstrations of the injustice of the accusations hazarded against me would have abashed the enterprise of my calumniators? However natural such an expectation may seem, it would betray an ignorance of the true character of the Jacobin system. It is a maxim deeply ingrafted in that dark system, that no character, however upright, is a match for constantly reiterated attacks, however false. It is well understood by its disciples that every calumny makes some proselytes, and even retains some; since justification seldom circulates as rapidly and as widely as slander. The number of those who from doubt proceed to suspicion, and thence to belief, of imputed guilt, is continually augmenting; and the public mind, fatigued at length with resistance to the calumnies which eternally assail it, is apt at the end to sit down with the opinion that a person so often accused cannot be entirely innocent.
Relying upon this weakness of human nature, the Jacobin Scandal-Club, though often defeated, constantly return to the charge. Old calumnies are served up afresh, and every pretext is seized to add to the catalogue. The person whom they seek to blacken, by dint of repeated strokes of their brush, becomes a demon in their own eyes, though he might be pure and bright as an angel but for the daubing of those wizard painters.
Of all the vile attempts which have been made to injure my character, that which has been lately revived in Nos. V. and VI. of the History of the United States for 1796, is the most vile. This it will be impossible for any intelligent, I will not say candid, man to doubt, when he shall have accompanied me through the examination.
I owe perhaps to my friends an apology for condescending to give a public explanation. A just pride with reluctance stoops to a formal vindication against so despicable a contrivance, and is inclined rather to oppose to it the uniform evidence of an upright character. This would be my conduct on the present occasion, did not the tale seem to derive a sanction from the names of three men of some weight and consequence in the society; a circumstance which I trust will excuse me for paying attention to a slander that, without this prop, would defeat itself by intrinsic circumstances of absurdity and malice.
The charge against me is a connection with one James Reynolds for purposes of improper pecuniary speculation. My real crime is an amorous connection with his wife for a considerable time, with his privity and connivance, if not originally brought on by a combination between the husband and wife with the design to extort money from me.
This confession is not made without a blush. I cannot be the apologist of any vice because the ardor of passion may have made it mine. I can never cease to condemn myself for the pang which it may inflict in a bosom eminently entitled to all my gratitude, fidelity, and love. But that bosom will approve, that, even at so great an expense, I should effectually wipe away a more serious stain from a name which it cherishes with no less elevation than tenderness. The public, too, will, I trust, excuse the confession. The necessity of it to my defence against a more heinous charge could alone have extorted from me so painful an indecorum.
Before I proceed to an exhibition of the positive proof which repels the charge, I shall analyze the documents from which it is deduced, and I am mistaken if with discerning and candid minds more would be necessary. But I desire to obviate the suspicions of the most suspicious.
The first reflection which occurs on a perusal of the documents is that it is morally impossible I should have been foolish as well as depraved enough to employ so vile an instrument as Reynolds for such insignificant ends, as are indicated by different parts of the story itself. My enemies to be sure have kindly pourtrayed me as another Chartres on the score of moral principle. But they have been ever bountiful in ascribing talents. It has suited their purpose to exaggerate such as I may possess, and to attribute to them an influence to which they are not entitled. But the present accusation imputes to me as much folly as wickedness. All the documents show, and it is otherwise matter of notoriety, that Reynolds was an obscure, unimportant, and profligate man. Nothing could be more weak, because nothing could be more unsafe than to make use of such an instrument; to use him, too, without any intermediate agent more worthy of confidence who might keep me out of sight; to write him numerous letters recording the objects of the improper connection (for this is pretended and that the letters were afterwards burnt at my request); to unbosom myself to him with a prodigality of confidence, by very unnecessarily telling him, as he alleges, of a connection in speculation between myself and Mr. Duer. It is very extraordinary, if the head of the money department of a country, being unprincipled enough to sacrifice his trust and his integrity, could not have contrived objects of profit sufficiently large to have engaged the co-operation of men of far greater importance than Reynolds, and with whom there could have been due safety, and should have been driven to the necessity of unkennelling such a reptile to be the instrument of his cupidity.
But, moreover, the scale of the concern with Reynolds, such as it is presented, is contemptibly narrow for a rapacious speculating Secretary of the Treasury. Clingman, Reynolds, and his wife were manifestly in very close confidence with each other. It seems there was a free communication of secrets. Yet in clubbing their different items of information as to the supplies of money which Reynolds received from me, what do they amount to? Clingman states that Mrs. Reynolds told him, that at a certain time her husband had received from me upwards of eleven hundred dollars. A note is produced which shows that at one time fifty dollars were sent to him, and another note is produced, by which and the information of Reynolds himself through Clingman, it appears that at another time three hundred dollars were asked and refused. Another sum of two hundred dollars is spoken of by Clingman as having been furnished to Reynolds at some other time. What a scale of speculation is this for the head of a public treasury, for one who, in the very publication that brings forward the charge, is represented as having procured to be funded at forty millions a debt which ought to have been discharged at ten or fifteen millions for the criminal purpose of enriching himself and his friends? He must have been a clumsy knave, if he did not secure enough of this excess of twenty-five or thirty millions, to have taken away all inducement to risk his character in such bad hands and in so huckstering a way—or to have enabled him, if he did employ such an agent, to do it with more means and to better purpose. It is curious that this rapacious Secretary should at one time have furnished his speculating agent with the paltry sum of fifty dollars; at another, have refused him the inconsiderable sum of three hundred dollars, declaring upon his honor that it was not in his power to furnish it. This declaration was true or not: if the last, the refusal ill comports with the idea of a speculating connection; if the first, it is very singular that the head of the Treasury, engaged without scruple in schemes of profit, should be destitute of so small a sum. But if we suppose this officer to be living upon an inadequate salary, without any collateral pursuits of gain, the appearances then are simple and intelligible enough, applying to them the true key.
It appears that Reynolds and Clingman were detected by the then Comptroller of the Treasury, in the odious crime of suborning a witness to commit perjury, for the purpose of obtaining letters of administration on the estate of a person who was living, in order to receive a small sum of money due to him from the Treasury. It is certainly extraordinary that the confidential agent of the head of that department should have been in circumstances to induce a resort to so miserable an expedient. It is odd, if there was a speculating connection, that it was not more profitable both to the Secretary and to his agent than are indicated by the circumstances disclosed.
It is also a remarkable and very instructive fact that, notwithstanding the great confidence and intimacy which subsisted between Clingman, Reynolds, and his wife, and which continued till after the period of the liberation of the two former from the prosecution against them, neither of them has ever specified the objects of the pretended connection in speculation between Reynolds and me. The pretext that the letters which contained the evidence were destroyed is no answer. They could not have been forgotten, and might have been disclosed from memory. The total omission of this could only have proceeded from the consideration that detail might have led to detection. The destruction of letters besides is a fiction, which is refuted not only by the general improbability that I should put myself upon paper with so despicable a person on a subject which might expose me to infamy, but by the evidence of extreme caution on my part in this particular, resulting from the laconic and disguised form of the notes which are produced; they prove incontestably that there was an unwillingness to trust Reynolds with my handwriting. The true reason was that I apprehended he might make use of it to impress upon others the belief of some pecuniary connection with me, and besides implicating my character, might render it the engine of a false credit, or turn it to some other sinister use. Hence the disguise; for my conduct in admitting at once and without hesitation that the notes were from me proves that it was never my intention by the expedient of disguising my hand to shelter myself from any serious inquiry.
The accusation against me was never heard of till Clingman and Reynolds were under prosecution by the Treasury for an infamous crime. It will be seen by the document No. I. (a) that during the endeavors of Clingman to obtain relief, through the interposition of Mr. Muhlenburg, he made to the latter the communication of my pretended criminality. It will be further seen by document No. II. that Reynolds had, while in prison, conveyed to the ears of Messrs. Monroe and Venable that he could give intelligence of my being concerned in speculation, and that he also supposed that he was kept in prison by a design on my part to oppress him and drive him away. And by his letter to Clingman of the 13th of December, after he was released from prison, it also appears that he was actuated by a spirit of revenge against me; for he declares that he will have satisfaction from me at all events, adding, as addressed to Clingman: “And you only I trust.“
Three important inferences flow from these circumstances: one, that the accusation against me was an auxiliary to the efforts of Clingman and Reynolds to get released from a disgraceful prosecution; another, that there was a vindictive spirit against me at least on the part of Reynolds; the third, that he confided in Clingman, as a coadjutor, in the plan of vengeance. These circumstances, according to every estimate of the credit due to accusers, ought to destroy their testimony. To what credit are persons entitled who, in telling a story, are governed by the double motive of escaping from disgrace and punishment and of gratifying revenge? As to Mrs. Reynolds, if she was not an accomplice, as it is too probable that she was, her situation would naturally subject her to the will of her husband. But enough besides will appear in the sequel to show that her testimony merits no attention.
The letter which has been just cited deserves a more particular attention. As it was produced by Clingman, there is a chasm of three lines, which lines are manifestly essential to explain the sense. It may be inferred from the context, that these deficient lines would unfold the cause of the resentment which is expressed. ‘T was from them that might have been learnt the true nature of the transaction. The expunging of them is a violent presumption that they would have contradicted the purpose for which the letter was produced. A witness offering such a mutilated piece discredits himself. The mutilation is alone satisfactory proof of contrivance and interposition. The manner of accounting for it is frivolous.
The words of the letter are strong—satisfaction is to be had at all events, per fas et nefas, and Clingman is the chosen confidential agent of the laudable plan of vengeance. It must be confessed he was not wanting in his part.
Reynolds, as will be seen by No. II. (a), alleges that a merchant came to him and offered as a volunteer to be his bail, who he suspected had been instigated to it by me, and after being decoyed to the place the merchant wished to carry him to, he refused being his bail, unless he would deposit a sum of money to some considerable amount, which he could not do, and was in consequence committed to prison. Clingman (No. IV. a) tells the same story in substance though with some difference in form, leaving to be implied what Reynolds expresses, and naming Henry Seckel as the merchant. The deposition of this respectable citizen (No. XXIII.) gives the lie to both, and shows that he was, in fact, the agent of Clingman, from motives of good-will to him, as his former book-keeper; that he never had any communication with me concerning either of them till after they were both in custody; that when he came as a messenger to me from one of them, I not only declined interposing in their behalf, but informed Mr. Seckel that they had been guilty of a crime, and advised him to have nothing to do with them.
This single fact goes far to invalidate the whole story. It shows plainly the disregard of truth, and the malice by which the parties were actuated. Other important inferences are to be drawn from the transaction. Had I been conscious that I had any thing to fear from Reynolds of the nature which has been pretended, should I have warned Mr. Seckel against having any thing to do with them? Should I not rather have encouraged him to have come to their assistance? Should I not have been eager to promote their liberation? But this is not the only instance in which I acted a contrary part. Clingman testifies in No. V. that I would not permit Fraunces, a clerk in my office, to become their bail, but signified to him that if he did it, he must quit the department.
Clingman states in No. IV. (a) that my note in answer to Reynolds’ application for a loan towards a subscription to the Lancaster Turnpike was in his possession from about the time it was written (June, 1792). This circumstance, apparently trivial, is very explanatory. To what end had Clingman the custody of this note all that time, if it was not part of a project to lay the foundation for some false accusation?
It appears from No. V. that Fraunces had said, or was stated to have said, something to my prejudice. If my memory serves me aright, it was that he had been my agent in some speculations. When Fraunces was interrogated concerning it, he absolutely denied that he said any thing of the kind. The charge which this same Fraunces afterward preferred against me to the House of Representatives, and the fate of it, have been already mentioned. It is illustrative of the nature of the combination which was formed against me.
There are other features in the documents which are relied upon to constitute the charge against me, that are of a nature to corroborate the inference to be drawn from the particulars which have been noticed. But there is no need to be over-minute. I am much mistaken if the view which has been taken of the subject is not sufficient, without any thing further, to establish my innocence with every discerning and fair mind.
I proceed in the next place to offer a frank and plain solution of the enigma, by giving a history of the origin and progress of my connection with Mrs. Reynolds, of its discovery, real and pretended, by the husband, and of the disagreeable embarrassments to which it exposed me. This history will be supported by the letters of Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds, which leave no room for doubt of the principal facts, and at the same time explain with precision the objects of the little notes from me which have been published, showing clearly that such of them as have related to money had no reference to any concern in speculation. As the situation which will be disclosed will fully explain every ambiguous appearance, and meet satisfactorily the written documents, nothing more can be requisite to my justification. For frail indeed will be the tenure by which the most blameless man will hold his reputation, if the assertions of three of the most abandoned characters in the community, two of them stigmatized by the discrediting crime which has been mentioned, are sufficient to blast it. The business of accusation would soon become, in such a case, a regular trade, and men’s reputations would be bought and sold like any marketable commodity.
Some time in the summer of the year 1791, a woman called at my house in the city of Philadelphia, and asked to speak with me in private. I attended her into a room apart from my family. With a seeming air of affliction she informed me that she was a daughter of a Mr. Lewis, sister to a Mr. G. Livingston of the State of New York, and wife to a Mr. Reynolds, whose father was in the Commissary Department during the war with Great Britain; that her husband, who for a long time had treated her very cruelly, had lately left her to live with another woman, and in so destitute a condition that, though desirous of returning to her friends, she had not the means; that knowing I was a citizen of New York, she had taken the liberty to apply to my humanity for assistance.
I replied, that her situation was a very interesting one—that I was disposed to afford her assistance to convey her to her friends, but this at the moment not being convenient to me (which was the fact), I must request the place of her residence, to which I should bring or send a small supply of money. She told me the street and the number of the house where she lodged. In the evening I put a bank-bill in my pocket and went to the house. I enquired for Mrs. Reynolds and was shown up stairs, at the head of which she met me and conducted me into a bedroom. I took the bill out of my pocket and gave it to her. Some conversation ensued, from which it was quickly apparent that other than pecuniary consolation would be acceptable.
After this I had frequent meetings with her, most of them at my own house; Mrs. Hamilton with her children being absent on a visit to her father. In the course of a short time, she mentioned to me that her husband had solicited a reconciliation, and affected to consult me about it. I advised to it, and was soon after informed by her that it had taken place. She told me besides that her husband had been engaged in speculation, and she believed could give information respecting the conduct of some persons in the department which would be useful. I sent for Reynolds who came to me accordingly.
In the course of our interview, he confessed that he had obtained a list of claims from a person in my department which he had made use of in his speculations. I invited him, by the expectation of my friendship and good offices, to disclose the person. After some affectation of scruple, he pretended to yield, and ascribed the infidelity to Mr. Duer, from whom he said he had obtained the list in New York, while he (Duer) was in the department.
As Mr. Duer had resigned his office some time before the seat of government was removed to Philadelphia, this discovery, if it had been true, was not very important—yet it was the interest of my passions to appear to set value upon it, and to continue the expectation of friendship and good offices. Mr. Reynolds told me he was going to Virginia, and on his return would point out something in which I could serve him. I do not know but he said something about employment in a public office.
On his return he asked employment as a clerk in the Treasury Department. The knowledge I had acquired of him was decisive against such a request. I parried it by telling him, what was true, that there was no vacancy in my immediate office, and that the appointment of clerks in the other branches of the department was left to the chiefs of the respective branches. Reynolds alleged, as Clingman relates, No. IV. (a), as a topic of complaint against me, that I had promised him employment and had disappointed him. The situation of the wife would naturally incline me to conciliate this man. It is possible I may have used vague expressions which raised expectation; but the more I learned of the person, the more inadmissible his employment in a public office became. Some material reflections will occur here to a discerning mind. Could I have preferred my private gratification to the public interest, should I not have found the employment he desired for a man whom it was so convenient to me, on my own statement, to lay under obligations. Had I had any such connection with him, as he has since pretended, is it likely that he would have wanted other employment? Or is it likely that, wanting it, I should have hazarded his resentment by a persevering refusal? This little circumstance shows at once the delicacy of my conduct, in its public relations, and the impossibility of my having had the connection pretended with Reynolds.
The intercourse with Mrs. Reynolds, in the meantime continued; and though various reflections (in which a further knowledge of Reynolds’ character and the suspicion of some concert between the husband and wife bore a part) induced me to wish acessation of it; yet, her conduct made it extremely difficult to disentangle myself. All the appearances of violent attachment, and of agonizing distress at the idea of a relinquishment, were played with a most imposing art. This, though it did not make me entirely the dupe of the plot, yet kept me in a state of irresolution. My sensibility, perhaps my vanity, admitted the possibility of a real fondness; and led me to adopt the plan of a gradual discontinuance rather than of a sudden interruption, as least calculated to give pain, if a real partiality existed.
Mrs. Reynolds, on the other hand, employed every effort to keep up my attention and visits. Her pen was freely employed, and her letters were filled with those tender and pathetic effusions which would have been natural to a woman truly fond and neglected.
One day, I received a letter from her, which is in the appendix (No. I., b), intimating a discovery by her husband. It was a matter of doubt with me whether there had been really a discovery by accident, or whether the time for the catastrophe of the plot was arrived.
The same day, being the 15th of December, 1791, I received from Mr. Reynolds the letter (No. II., b) by which he informs me of the detection of his wife in the act of writing a letter to me, and that he had obtained from her a discovery of her connection with me, suggesting that it was the consequence of an undue advantage taken of her distress.
In answer to this I sent him a note, or message, desiring him to call upon me at my office, which I think he did the same day.
He in substance repeated the topics contained in his letter, and concluded, as he had done there, that he was resolved to have satisfaction.
I replied that he knew best what evidence he had of the alleged connection between me and his wife, that I neither admitted nor denied it; that if he knew of any injury I had done him, entitling him to satisfaction, it lay with him to name it.
He travelled over the same ground as before, and again concluded with the same vague claim of satisfaction, but without specifying the kind which would content him. It was easy to understand that he wanted money, and, to prevent an explosion, I resolved to gratify him. But willing to manage his delicacy, if he had any, I reminded him that I had, at our first interview, made him a promise of service, that I was disposed to do it as far as might be proper, and in my power, and requested him to consider in what manner I could do it, and to write to me. He withdrew with a promise of compliance.
Two days after, the 17th of December, he wrote me the letter (No. III., b). The evident drift of this letter is to exaggerate the injury done by me, to make a display of sensibility, and to magnify the atonement which was to be required. It, however, comes to no conclusion, but proposes a meeting at the George Tavern, or at some other place more agreeable to me, which I should name.
On receipt of this letter, I called upon Reynolds, and, assuming a decisive tone, told him that I was tired of his indecision, and insisted upon his declaring to me explicitly what it was he aimed at. He again promised to explain by letter.
On the 19th, I received the promised letter (No. IV., b), the essence of which is that he was willing to take a thousand dollars as a plaister for his wounded honor.
I determined to give it to him, and did so in two payments, as per receipts (Nos. V. and IV.), dated the 22d of December and 3d of January. It is a little remarkable that an avaricious speculating Secretary of the Treasury should have been so straitened for money as to be obliged to satisfy an engagement of this sort by two different payments!
On the 17th of January, I received the letter No. V., by which Reynolds writes me to renew my visits to his wife. He had before requested that I would see her no more. The motive to this step appears in the conclusion of the letter: “I rely upon your befriending me, if there should any thing offer that should be to my advantage, as you express a wish to befriend me.” Is the pre-existence of a speculating connection reconcilable with this mode of expression?
If I recollect rightly, I did not immediately accept the invitation, nor till after I had received several very importunate letters from Mrs. Reynolds. See her letters, No. VII. (b), IX., X.
On the 24th of March following, I received a letter from Reynolds, No. XI., and on the same day one from his wife, No. XII. These letters will further illustrate the obliging co-operation of the husband with his wife to aliment and keep alive my connection with her.
The letters from Reynolds, No. XIII. to XIV., are an additional comment upon the same plan. It was a persevering scheme to spare no pains to levy contributions upon my passions on the one hand, and upon my apprehensions of discovery on the other. It is probably to No. XIV. that my note, in these words, was an answer: “To-morrow what is requested will be done. ‘T will hardly be possible to-day.” The letter presses for the loan which is asked for to-day. A scarcity of cash, which was not very uncommon, is believed to have modelled the reply.
The letter No. XVII. is a masterpiece. The husband there forbids my future visits to his wife, chiefly because I was careful to avoid publicity. It was probably necessary to the project of some deeper treason against me that I should be seen at the house. Hence was it contrived, with all the caution on my part to avoid it, that Clingman should occasionally see me.
The interdiction was every way welcome, and was, I believe, strictly observed. On the second of June following, I received the letter, No. XVIII., from Mrs. Reynolds, which proves that it was not her plan yet to let me off. It was probably the prelude to the letter from Reynolds, No. XIX., soliciting a loan of three hundred dollars towards a subscription to the Lancaster Turnpike. Clingman’s statement, No. IV., admits, on the information of Reynolds, that to this letter the following note from me was an answer: “It is utterly out of my power, I assure you ‘pon my honor, to comply with your request. Your note is returned.” The letter itself demonstrates, that here was no concern in speculation on my part—that the money is asked as a favor and as a loan, to be reimbursed simply and without profit in less than a fortnight. My answer shows that even the loan was refused.
The letter, No. XX., from Reynolds, explains the object of my note in these words: “Inclosed are fifty dollars; they could not be sent sooner,” proving that this sum was also begged for in a very apologetic style as a mere loan.
The letters of the 24th and 30th of August, Nos. XXI. and XXII., furnished the key to the affair of the two hundred dollars mentioned by Clingman in No. IV., showing that this sum was likewise asked by way of loan, towards furnishing a small boarding-house, which Reynolds and his wife were, or pretended to be, about to set up.
These letters, collectively, furnish a complete elucidation of the nature of my transactions with Reynolds. They resolve them into an amorous connection with his wife, detected, or pretended to be detected by the husband, imposing on me the necessity of a pecuniary composition with him, and leaving me afterwards under a duress for fear of disclosure, which was the instrument of levying upon me from time to time forced loans. They apply directly to this state of things, the notes which Reynolds was so careful to preserve, and which had been employed to excite suspicion.
Four, and the principal, of these notes have been not only generally but particularly explained. I shall briefly notice the remaining two.
“My dear sir, I expected to have heard the day after I had the pleasure of seeing you.” This fragment, if truly a part of a letter to Reynolds, denotes nothing more than a disposition to be civil to a man whom, as I said before, it was the interest of my passions to conciliate. But I verily believe it was not part of a letter to him, because I do not believe that I ever addressed him in such a style. It may very well have been part of a letter to some other person, procured by means of which I am ignorant, or it may have been the beginning of an intended letter, torn off, thrown into the chimney in my office, which was a common practice, and there, or after it had been swept out, picked up by Reynolds, or some coadjutor of his. There appears to have been more than one clerk in the department somehow connected with him.
The endeavor, shown by the letter No. XVII., to induce me to render my visits to Mrs. Reynolds more public, and the great care with which my little notes were preserved, justify the belief that at a period before it was attempted, the idea of implicating me in some accusation, with a view to the advantage of the accusers, was entertained. Hence the motive to pick up and preserve any fragment which might favor the idea of friendly or confidential correspondence.
Secondly: “The person Mr. Reynolds inquired for on Friday waited for him all the evening at his house, from a little after seven. Mr. R. may see him at any time today or tomorrow, between the hours of two and three.”
Mrs. Reynolds more than once communicated to me that Reynolds would occasionally relapse into discontent at his situation, would treat her very ill, hint at the assassination of me, and more openly threaten, by way of revenge, to inform Mrs. Hamilton. All this naturally gave some uneasiness. I could not be absolutely certain whether it was artifice or reality. In the workings of human inconsistency it was very possible that the same man might be corrupt enough to compound for his wife’s chastity, and yet have sensibility enough to be restless in the situation and to hate the cause of it.
Reflections like these induced me for some time to use palliatives with the ill-humors which were announced to me. Reynolds had called upon me in one of these discontented moods, real or pretended. I was unwilling to provoke him by the appearance of neglect, and having failed to be at home at the hour he had been permitted to call, I wrote her the above note to obviate an ill impression.
The foregoing narrative and the remarks accompanying it have prepared the way for a perusal of the letters themselves. The more attention is used in this, the more entire will be the satisfaction which they will afford.
It has been seen that an explanation on the subject was had contemporarily, that is, in December, 1792, with three members of Congress,—F. A. Muhlenburg, J. Monroe, and A. Venable. It is proper that the circumstances of this transaction should be accurately understood.
The manner in which Mr. Muhlenburg became engaged in the affair is fully set forth in the document (No. I., a). It is not equally clear how the two other gentlemen came to embark in it. The phraseology, in reference to this point, in the close of No. I. and beginning of No. II. is rather equivocal. The gentlemen, if they please, can explain it.
But on the morning of the 15th of December, 1792, the above-mentioned gentlemen presented themselves at my office. Mr. Muhlenburg was then speaker. He introduced the subject by observing to me that they had discovered a very improper connection between me and a Mr. Reynolds; extremely hurt by this mode of introduction, I arrested the progress of the discourse by giving way to very strong expressions of indignation. The gentlemen explained, telling me in substance that I had misapprehended them; that they did not take the fact for established; that their meaning was to apprise me that, unsought by them, information had been given them of an improper pecuniary connection between Mr. Reynolds and myself; that they had thought it their duty to pursue it, and had become possessed of some documents of a suspicious complexion; that they had contemplated laying the matter before the President, but before they did this they thought it right to apprise me of the affair and to afford an opportunity of explanation; declaring at the same time that their agency in the matter was influenced solely by a sense of public duty and by no motive of personal ill-will. If my memory be correct, the notes from me in a disguised hand were now shown to me, which without a moment’s hesitation I acknowledged to be mine.
I replied, that the affair was now put upon a different footing—that I always stood ready to meet fair inquiry with frank communication—that it happened, in the present instance, to be in my power by written documents to remove all doubts as to the real nature of the business, and fully to convince that nothing of the kind imputed to me did in fact exist. The same evening at my house was by mutual consent appointed for an explanation.
I immediately after saw Mr. Wolcott, and for the first time informed him of the affair and of the interview just had; and delivering into his hands for perusal the documents of which I was possessed, I engaged him to be present at the intended explanation in the evening.
In the evening the proposed meeting took place, and Mr. Wolcott according to my request attended. The information, which had been received to that time, from Clingman, Reynolds, and his wife, had been communicated to me, and the notes were I think again exhibited.
I stated in explanation, the circumstances of my affair with Mrs. Reynolds and the consequence of it, and in confirmation produced the documents No. I., b, to XXII. One or more of the gentlemen (Mr. Wolcott’s certificate No. XXIV. mentions one, Mr. Venable, but I think the same may be said of Mr. Muhlenburg) were struck with so much conviction, before I had gotten through the communication, that they delicately urged me to discontinue it as unnecessary. I insisted upon going through the whole, and did so. The result was a full and unequivocal acknowledgment on the part of the three gentlemen of perfect satisfaction with the explanation, and expressions of regret at the trouble and embarrassment which had been occasioned to me. Mr. Muhlenburg and Mr. Venable, in particular, manifested a degree of sensibility on the occasion. Mr. Monroe was more cold but entirely explicit.
One of the gentlemen, I think, expressed a hope that I also was satisfied with their conduct in conducting the inquiry. I answered that they knew I had been hurt at the opening of the affair; that, this excepted, I was satisfied with their conduct, and considered myself as having been treated with candor or with fairness and liberality. I do not now pretend to recollect the exact terms. I took the next morning a memorandum of the substance of what was said to me, which will be seen by a copy of it transmitted in a letter to each of the gentlemen—No. XXV.
I deny absolutely, as alleged by the editor of the publication in question, that I entreated a suspension of the communication to the President, or that from the beginning to the end of the inquiry I asked any favor or indulgence whatever, and that I discovered any symptom different from that of a proud consciousness of innocence.
Some days after the explanation I wrote to the three gentlemen the letter No. XXVI., already published. That letter evinces the light in which I considered myself as standing in their view.
I received from Mr. Muhlenburg and Mr. Monroe in answer the letters Nos. XXVII. and XXVIII.
Thus the affair remained till the pamphlets Nos. V. and VI. of the History of the United States for 1796 appeared, with the exception of some dark whispers, which were communicated to me by a friend in Virginia, and to which I replied by a statement of what had passed.
When I saw No. V., though it was evidence of base infidelity somewhere, yet firmly believing that nothing more than a want of due care was chargeable upon either of the three gentlemen who had made the inquiry, I immediately wrote to each of them a letter, of which No. XXV. is a copy, in full confidence that their answer would put the whole business at rest. I ventured to believe, from the appearances on their part at closing our former interview on the subject, that their answers would have been both cordial and explicit.
I acknowledge that I was astonished when I came to read in the pamphlet No. VI. the conclusion of the document No. V., containing the equivocal phrase: “We left him under an impression our suspicions were removed,” which seemed to imply that this had been a mere piece of management, and that the impression given me had not been reciprocal. The appearance of duplicity incensed me; but resolving to proceed with caution and moderation, I thought the first proper step was to inquire of the gentlemen whether the paper was genuine. A letter was written for this purpose, the copy of which I have mislaid.
I afterward received from Messrs. Muhlenburg and Venable the letters Nos. XXIX., XXX., and XXXI.
Receiving no answer from Mr. Monroe, and hearing of his arrival at New York, I called upon him. The issue of the interview was that an answer was to be given by him, in conjunction with Mr. Muhlenburg and Mr. Venable, on his return to Philadelphia, he thinking that, as the agency had been joint, it was most proper the answer should be joint, and informing me that Mr. Venable had told him he would wait his return.
I came to Philadelphia accordingly to bring the affair to a close; but upon my arrival I found Mr. Venable had left the city for Virginia.
Mr. Monroe reached Philadelphia according to his appointment. And the morning following wrote me the note No. XXXII. While this note was on its way to my lodgings, I was on my way to his. I had a conversation with him, from which we separated with a repetition of the assurance in the note. In the course of the interviews with Mr. Monroe the equivoque in document No. V. (a) and the paper of January 2, 1793, under his signature, were noticed.
I received the day following the letter No. XXXIII., to which I returned the answer No. XXXIV., accompanied with the letter No. XXXV., which was succeeded by the letters Nos. XXXVI., XXXVII., XXXVIII., XXXIX., XL. In due time the sequel of the correspondence will appear.
Though extremely disagreeable to me, for very obvious reasons, I at length determined, in order that no cloud whatever might be left on the affair, to publish the documents which had been communicated to Messrs. Monroe, Muhlenburg, and Venable, all which will be seen in the appendix from No. I. (b) to No. XXII. inclusively.
The information from Clingman of the 2d of January, 1793, to which the signature of Mr. Monroe is annexed, seems to require an observation or two in addition to what is contained in my letter to him No. XXXIX.
Clingman first suggests that he had been apprised of my vindication through Mr. Wolcott a day or two after it had been communicated. It did not occur to me to inquire of Mr. Wolcott on this point, and he being now absent from Philadelphia, I cannot do it at this moment. Though I can have no doubt of the friendly intention of Mr. Wolcott, if the suggestion of Clingman in this particular be taken as true, yet from the condition of secrecy which was annexed to my communication, there is the strongest reason to conclude it is not true. If not true, there is besides but one of two solutions, either that he obtained the information from one of the three gentlemen who made the inquiry, which would have been a very dishonorable act in the party, or that he conjectured what my defence was from what he before knew it truly could be. For there is the highest probability, that through Reynolds and his wife, and as an accomplice, he was privy to the whole affair. This last method of accounting for his knowledge would be conclusive on the sincerity and genuineness of the defence.
But the turn which Clingman gives to the matter must necessarily fall to the ground. It is, that Mrs. Reynolds denied her amorous connection with me, and represented the suggestion of it as a mere contrivance between her husband and myself to cover me, alleging that there had been a fabrication of letters and receipts to countenance it. The plain answer is that Mrs. Reynolds’ own letters contradict absolutely this artful explanation of hers; if indeed she ever made it, of which Clingman’s assertion is no evidence whatever. These letters are proved by the affidavit No. XLI., though it will easily be conceived that the proof of them was rendered no easy matter by a lapse of near five years. They show explicitly the connection with her, the discovery of it by her husband, and the pains she took to prolong it when I evidently wished to get rid of it. This cuts up, by the root, the pretence of a contrivance between the husband and myself to fabricate the evidence of it.
The variety of shapes which this woman could assume was endless. In a conversation between her and a gentleman whom I am not at liberty publicly to name, she made a voluntary confession of her belief and even knowledge, that I was innocent of all that had been laid to my charge by Reynolds or any other person of her acquaintance, spoke of me in exalted terms of esteem and respect, declared in the most solemn manner her extreme unhappiness lest I should suppose her accessory to the trouble which had been given me on that account, and expressed her fear that the resentment of Mr. Reynolds on a particular score might have urged him to improper lengths of revenge—appearing at the same time extremely agitated and unhappy. With the gentleman who gives this information, I have never been in any relation personal or political that could be supposed to bias him. His name would evince that he is an impartial witness. And though I am not permitted to make a public use of it, I am permitted to refer any gentleman to the perusal of his letter in the hands of William Bingham, Esquire; who is also so obliging as to permit me to deposit with him for similar inspection all the original papers which are contained in the appendix to this narrative. The letter from the gentleman above alluded to has been already shown to Mr. Monroe.
Let me now, in the last place, recur to some comments, in which the hireling editor of the pamphlets Nos. V. and VI. has thought fit to indulge himself.
The first of them is that the soft language of one of my notes addressed to a man in the habit of threatening me with disgrace, is incompatible with the idea of innocence. The threats alluded to must be those of being able to hang the Secretary of the Treasury. How does it appear that Reynolds was in such a habit? No otherwise than by the declaration of Reynolds and Clingman. If the assertions of these men are to condemn me, there is an end of the question. There is no need by elaborate deductions from parts of their assertions to endeavor to establish what their assertions collectively affirm in express terms. If they are worthy of credit I am guilty; if they are not, all wire-drawn inferences from parts of their story are mere artifice and nonsense. But no man, not as debauched as themselves, will believe them independent of the positive disproof of their story in the written documents.
As to the affair of threats (except those in Reynolds’ letters respecting the connection with his wife, which, it will be perceived, were very gentle for the occasion,) not the least idea of the sort ever reached me till after the imprisonment of Reynolds. Mr. Wolcott’s certificate shows my conduct in that case,—notwithstanding the powerful motives I may be presumed to have had to desire the liberation of Reynolds, on account of my situation with his wife, I cautioned Mr. Wolcott not to facilitate his liberation till the affair of the threat was satisfactorily cleared up. The solemn denial of it in Reynolds’ letter No. XLII. was considered by Mr. Wolcott as sufficient. This is a further proof that, though in respect to my situation with his wife I was somewhat in Reynolds’ power, I was not disposed to make any improper concession to the apprehension of his resentment.
As to the threats intimated in his letters, the nature of the cause will show that the soft tone of my note was not only compatible with them, but a natural sequence of them.
But it is observed that the dread of the disclosure of an amorous connection was not a sufficient cause for my humility, and that I had nothing to lose as to my reputation for chastity; concerning which the world had fixed a previous opinion.
I shall not enter into the question what was the previous opinion entertained of me in this particular—nor how well founded, for it was indeed such as it is represented to have been. It is sufficient to say that there is a wide difference between vague rumors and suspicions and the evidence of a positive fact. No man not indelicately unprincipled, with the state of manners in this country, would be willing to have a conjugal infidelity fixed upon him with positive certainty. He would know that it would justly injure him with a considerable and respectable portion of the society; and especially no man, tender of the happiness of an excellent wife, could, without extreme pain, look forward to the affliction which she might endure from the disclosure, especially a public disclosure of the fact. Those best acquainted with the interior of my domestic life will best appreciate the force of such a consideration upon me.
The truth was, that in both relations, and especially the last, I dreaded extremely a disclosure—and was willing to make large sacrifices to avoid it. It is true that, from the acquiescence of Reynolds, I had strong ties upon his secrecy, but how could I rely upon any tie upon so base a character. How could I know, but that from moment to moment he might, at the expense of his own disgrace, become the mercenary of a party with whom to blast my character in any way is a favorite object.
Strong inferences are attempted to be drawn from the release of Clingman and Reynolds with the consent of the Treasury—from the want of communicativeness of Reynolds while in prison—from the subsequent disappearance of Reynolds and his wife, and from their not having been produced by me in order to be confronted at the time of the explanation.
As to the first, it was emphatically the transaction of Mr. Wolcott, the then Comptroller of the Treasury, and was bottomed upon a very adequate motive—and one, as appears from the document No. I. (a), early contemplated in this light by that officer. It was certainly of more consequence to the public to detect and expel from the bosom of the Treasury Department an unfaithful clerk to prevent future and extensive mischief, than to disgrace and punish two worthless individuals. Besides that, a powerful influence foreign to me was exerted to procure indulgence to them—that of Mr. Muhlenburg and Col. Burr—that of Col. Wadsworth, which, though insidiously placed to my account, was, to the best of my recollection, utterly unknown to me at that time, and, according to the confession of Mrs. Reynolds herself, was put in motion by her entreaty. Candid men will derive strong evidence of my innocence and delicacy from the reflection, that under circumstances so peculiar, the culprits were compelled to give a real and substantial equivalent for the relief which they obtained from a department over which I presided.
The backwardness of Reynolds to enter into detail, while in jail, was an argument of nothing but that, conscious of his inability to communicate any particulars which could be supported, he found it more convenient to deal in generals, and to keep up appearances by giving promises for the future.
As to the disappearance of the parties after the liberation, how am I answerable for it? Is it not presumable that the instance discovered at the Treasury was not the only offence of the kind of which they were guilty? After one detection, is it not very probable that Reynolds fled to avoid detection in other cases? But exclusive of this, it is known, and might easily be proved, that Reynolds was considerably in debt! What more natural for him than to fly from his creditors after having been once exposed by confinement for such a crime? Moreover, atrocious as his conduct had been toward me, was it not natural for him to fear that my resentment might be excited at the discovery of it, and that it might have been deemed a sufficient reason for retracting the indulgence which was shown by withdrawing the prosecution and for recommencing it?
One or all of these considerations will explain the disappearance of Reynolds without imputing it to me as a method of getting rid of a dangerous witness.
That disappearance rendered it impracticable, if it had been desired, to bring him forward to be confronted. As to Clingman it was not pretended that he knew any thing of what was charged upon me, otherwise than by the notes which he produced, and the information of Reynolds and his wife. As to Mrs. Reynolds, she in fact appears by Clingman’s last story to have remained, and to have been accessible, through him, by the gentlemen who had undertaken the inquiry. If they supposed it necessary to the elucidation of the affair, why did not they bring her forward? There can be no doubt of the sufficiency of Clingman’s influence for this purpose, when it is understood that Mrs. Reynolds and he afterward lived together as man and wife. But to what purpose the confronting? What would it have availed to the elucidation of truth if Reynolds and his wife had impudently made allegations which I denied? Relative character and the written documents must still determine. These could decide without it, and they were relied upon. But could it be expected that I should so debase myself as to think it necessary to my vindication to be confronted with a person such as Reynolds? Could I have borne to suffer my veracity to be exposed to the humiliating competition?
For what?—why, it is said, to tear up the last twig of jealousy—but when I knew that I possessed written documents which were decisive, how could I foresee that any twig of jealousy would remain? When the proofs I did produce to the gentlemen were admitted by them to be completely satisfactory, and by some of them to be more than sufficient, how could I dream of the expediency of producing more—how could I imagine that every twig of jealousy was not plucked up?
If, after the recent confessions of the gentlemen themselves, it could be useful to fortify the proof of the full conviction my explanation had wrought, I might appeal to the total silence concerning this charge, when at a subsequent period, in the year 1793, there was such an active legislative persecution of me.
It might not even perhaps be difficult to establish that it came under the eye of Mr. Giles, and that he discarded it as the plain case of a private amour unconnected connected with any thing that was the proper subject of a public attack.
Thus has my desire to destroy this slander completely led me to a more copious and particular examination of it, than I am sure was necessary. The bare perusal of the letters from Reynolds and his wife is sufficient to convince my greatest enemy that there is nothing worse in the affair than an irregular and indelicate amour. For this, I bow to the just censure which it merits. I have paid pretty severely for the folly, and can never recollect it without disgust and self-condemnation. It might seem affectation to say more.
To unfold more clearly the malicious intent by which the present revival of the affair must have been influenced, I shall annex an affidavit of Mr. Webster, tending to confirm my declaration of the utter falsehood of the assertion, that a menace of publishing the papers which have been published had arrested the progress of an attempt to hold me up as a candidate for the office of President. Does this editor imagine that he will escape the just odium which awaits him, by the miserable subterfuge of saying that he had the information from a respectable citizen of New York? Till he names the author the inevitable inference must be that he has fabricated the tale.
no. I. (a)
13th of December, 1792.
Jacob Clingman being a clerk in my employment, and becoming involved in a prosecution commenced against James Reynolds, by the Comptroller of the Treasury, on a charge of information exhibited before Hillary Baker, Esq., one of the aldermen of this city, for subornation of perjury, whereby they had obtained money from the treasury of the United States, he (Clingman) applied to me for my aid and friendship on behalf of himself and Reynolds, to get them released or discharged from the prosecution. I promised, so far as respected Clingman, but, not being particularly acquainted with Reynolds, in a great measure declined, so far as respected him. In company with Col. Burr, I waited on Col. Hamilton for the purpose, and particularly recommended Clingman, who had hitherto sustained a good character. Col. Hamilton signified a wish to do all that was consistent. Shortly after, I waited on the Comptroller, for the same purpose, who seemed to have some difficulties on the subject; and from some information I had, in the mean time, received, I could not undertake to recommend Reynolds, as I verily believed him to be a rascal; which words I made use of to the Comptroller. In a second interview with the Comptroller, on the same subject, the latter urged the propriety of Clingman's delivering up a certain list of money due to individuals, which Reynolds and Clingman were said to have in their possession, and of his informing him of whom, or through whom, the same was obtained from the public offices; on doing which, Clingman's request might, perhaps, be granted with greater propriety. This, Clingman, I am informed, complied with, and also refunded the money, or certificates, which they had improperly obtained from the treasury. After which, I understand the action against both was withdrawn, and Reynolds discharged from imprisonment, without any further interference of mine whatsoever. During the time this business was thus depending, and which lasted upwards of three weeks, Clingman, unasked, frequently dropped hints to me, that Reynolds had it in his power very materially to injure the Secretary of the Treasury, and that Reynolds knew several very improper transactions of his. I paid little or no attention to those hints, but when they were frequently repeated, and it was even added that Reynolds said he had it in his power to hang the Secretary of the Treasury, that he was deeply concerned in speculation, that he had frequently advanced money to him (Reynolds), and other insinuations of an improper nature, it created considerable uneasiness on my mind, and I conceived it my duty to consult with some friends on the subject. Mr. Monroe and Mr. Venable were informed of it yesterday morning.
no. II. (a)
December 13, 1792.
Being informed yesterday, in the morning, that a person of the name of Reynolds, from Virginia (Richmond), was confined in jail upon some criminal prosecution relative to certificates, and that he had intimated he could give some intelligence of speculations of Mr. Hamilton which should be known, we immediately called on him, as well to be informed of the situation of the man, as of those other matters in which the public might be interested. We found it was not the person we had been taught to believe, but a man of that name from New York, and who had, for some time past, resided in this city. Being there, however, we questioned him respecting the other particular; he informed us that he could give information of the misconduct, in that respect, of a person high in office, but must decline it for the present and until relieved, which was promised him that evening: that, at ten to-day, he would give us a detail of whatever he knew on the subject. He affirmed he had a person in high office in his power, and has had a long time past. That he had written to him in terms so abusive that no person should have submitted to it, but that he dared not to resent it. That Mr. Wolcott was in the same department, and, he supposed, under his influence or control. And, in fact, expressed himself in such a manner as to leave no doubt he meant Mr. Hamilton. That he expected to be relieved by Mr. Wolcott at the instance of that person, although he believed that Mr. Wolcott, in instituting the prosecution, had no improper design. That he was satisfied the prosecution was set on foot only to keep him low and oppress him, and ultimately drive him away, in order to prevent his using the power he had over him; that he had had, since his residence here for eighteen months, many private meetings with that person, who had often promised to put him into employment, but had disappointed him. That, on hearing the prosecution was commenced against him, he applied to this person for counsel, who advised him to keep out of the way for a few days. That a merchant came to him and offered, as a volunteer, to be his bail, who, he suspects, had been instigated by this person, and, after being decoyed to the place the merchant wished to carry him, he refused being his bail unless he would deposit a sum of money to some considerable amount, which he could not do, and was, in consequence, committed to prison. As well as we remember, he gave as a reason why he could not communicate to us what he knew of the facts alluded to, that he was apprehensive it might prevent his discharge, but that he would certainly communicate the whole to us at ten this morning, at which time, we were informed, he had absconded or concealed himself.
no. III. (a)
December 13, 1792.
Being desirous, on account of their equivocal complexion, to examine into the suggestions which had been made us respecting the motive for the confinement and proposed enlargement of James Reynolds, from the jail of this city, and inclined to suspect, for the same reason, that, unless it were immediately done, the opportunity would be lost, as we were taught to suspect he would leave the place immediately after his discharge, we called at his house last night for that purpose; we found Mrs. Reynolds alone. It was with difficulty we obtained from her any information on the subject, but at length she communicated to us the following particulars:
That since Col. Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury, and at his request she had burned a considerable number of letters from him to her husband, and in the absence of the latter, touching business between them, to prevent their being made public; she also mentioned that Mr. Clingman had several anonymous notes addressed to her husband, which, she believed, were from Mr. Hamilton (which we have), with an endorsement “from Secretary Hamilton, Esq.,” in Mr. Reynolds' handwriting: That Mr. Hamilton offered her his assistance to go to her friends, which he advised: That he also advised that her husband should leave these parts, not to be seen here again, and in which case he would give something clever. That she was satisfied this wish for his departure did not proceed from friendship to him, but upon account of his threat, that he could tell something that would make some of the heads of departments tremble. That Mr. Wadsworth had been active in her behalf, first at her request; but, in her opinion, with the knowledge and communication of Mr. Hamilton, whose friend he professed to be; that he had been at her house yesterday and mentioned to her that two gentlemen of Congress had been at the jail to confer with her husband, enquired if she knew what they went for, observed he knew Mr. Hamilton had enemies who would try to prove some speculations on him, but, when enquired into, he would be found immaculate; to which she replied, she rather doubted it. We saw in her possession two notes, one in the name of Alexander Hamilton, of the sixth of December, and the other signed “S. W.,” purporting to have been written yesterday, both expressing a desire to relieve her.
She denied any recent communication with Mr. Hamilton, or that she had received any money from him lately.
no. IV. (a)
December 13, 1792.
Jacob Clingman has been engaged in some negotiations with Mr. Reynolds, the person who has lately been discharged from a prosecution instituted against him by the Comptroller of the Treasury. That his acquaintance commenced in September, 1791. That a mutual confidence and intimacy existed between them. That in January or February last, he saw Col. Hamilton at the house of Reynolds; immediately on his going into the house Col. Hamilton left it. That in a few days after, he (Clingman) was at Mr. Reynolds' house with Mrs. Reynolds, her husband being then out; some person knocked at the door; he arose and opened it, and saw that it was Col. Hamilton. Mrs. Reynolds went to the door; he delivered a paper to her, and that he was ordered to give Mr. Reynolds that, but asked Mrs. Reynolds who could order the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States to give that; she replied that she supposed he did not want to be known. This happened in the night. He asked her how long Mr. Reynolds had been acquainted with Col. Hamilton. She replied some months. That Col. Hamilton had assisted her husband; that some few days before that time he had received upward of eleven hundred dollars of Col. Hamilton. Some time after this, Clingman was at the house of Reynolds, and saw Col. Hamilton come in; he retired and left him there. A little after Duer's failure, Reynolds told Clingman in confidence that if Duer had held up three days longer, he should have made fifteen hundred pounds, by the assistance of Col. Hamilton; that Col. Hamilton had informed him that he was connected with Duer. Mr. Reynolds also said that Col. Hamilton had made thirty thousand dollars by speculation; that Col. Hamilton had supplied him with money to speculate. That about June last, Reynolds told Clingman that he had applied to Col. Hamilton for money to subscribe to the Turnpike road at Lancaster, and had received a note from him in these words: “It is utterly out of my power, I assure you, upon my honor, to comply with your request. Your note is returned.” Which original note, accompanying this, has been in Clingman's possession ever since. Mr. Reynolds has once or twice mentioned to Clingman that he had it in his power to hang Col. Hamilton; that if he wanted money he was obliged to let him have it. That he (Clingman) has occasionally lent money to Reynolds, who always told that he could always get it from Col. Hamilton to repay it. That on one occasion Clingman lent him two hundred dollars that Reynolds promised to pay him through the means of Col. Hamilton, that he went with him, saw him go into Col. Hamilton's; that after he came out he paid him one hundred dollars, which, he said, was part of the sum he had got, and paid the balance in a few days; the latter sum paid was said to have been from Col. Hamilton, after his return from Jersey, having made a visit to the manufacturing society there. After a warrant was issued against Reynolds, upon a late prosecution, which was instituted against him, Clingman, seeing Reynolds, asked him why he did not apply to his friend Col. Hamilton, he said he would go immediately, and went accordingly; he said afterwards that Col. Hamilton advised him to keep out of the way, a few days, and the matter would be settled. That after this time, Henry Seckel went to Reynolds, and offered to be his bail, if he would go with him to Mr. Baker's office, where he had left the officer, who had the warrant in writing; that he prevailed on Reynolds to go with him; that after Reynolds was taken into custody, Seckel refused to become his bail, unless he would deposit, in his possession, property to the value of four hundred pounds; upon which Reynolds wrote to Col. Hamilton, and Mr. Seckel carried the note; after two or three times going, he saw Col. Hamilton; Col. Hamilton said he knew Reynolds and his father; that his father was a good Whig in the late war; that was all he could say: That it was not in his power to assist him; in consequence of which, Seckel refused to be his bail, and Reynolds was imprisoned. Mr. Reynolds also applied to a Mr. Francis, who is one of the clerks in the Treasury Department: he said he could not do any thing, without the consent of Mr. Hamilton; that he would apply to him. He applied to Mr. Hamilton; who told him, that it would not be prudent; if he did, he must leave the department.
After Reynolds was confined, Clingman asked Mrs. Reynolds why she did not apply to Col. Hamilton to dismiss him, as the money was ready to be refunded, that had been received; she replied that she had applied to him, and he had sent her to Mr. Wolcott, but directed her not to let Mr. Wolcott know that he had sent her there; notwithstanding this injunction, she did let Mr. Wolcott know by whom she had been sent; who appeared to be surprised at the information, but said he would do what he could for her, and would consult Col. Hamilton on the occasion. Col. Hamilton advised her to get some person of respectability to intercede for her husband, and mentioned Mr. Muhlenburg.
Reynolds continued to be kept in custody for some time. Clingman had conversation with Mr. Wolcott, who said, if he would give up a list of claims which he had, he should be released. After this, Mrs. Reynolds informed Clingman, that Col. Hamilton had told her, that Clingman should write a letter to Mr. Wolcott, and a duplicate of the same to himself, promising to give up the list and refund the money, which had been obtained on a certificate, which had been said to have been improperly obtained.
Clingman asked Mrs. Reynolds for the letters that her husband had received from Col. Hamilton, from time to time, as he might probably use them to obtain her husband's liberty. She replied, that Col. Hamilton had requested her to burn all the letters that were in his handwriting, or that had his name to them; which she had done; he pressed her to examine again, as she might not have destroyed the whole, and they would be useful; she examined and found ——— notes, which are herewith submitted, and which, she said, were notes from Col. Hamilton.
Mrs. Reynolds told Clingman that having heard that her husband's father was in the late war, a commissary, under the direction of Col. Wadsworth, waited on him to get him to intercede for her husband's discharge; he told her he would give her his assistance, and said, now you have made me your friend, you must apply to no one else. That, on Sunday evening, Clingman went to the house of Reynolds and found Col. Wadsworth there; he was introduced to Col. Wadsworth by Mrs. Reynolds; Col. Wadsworth told him he had seen Mr. Wolcott; that Mr. Wolcott would do any thing for him (Clingman) and Reynolds' family, that he could; that he had called on Col. Hamilton but had not seen him; but he might tell Mr. Muhlenburg that a friend of his (Clingman's) had told him that Col. Wadsworth was a countryman and schoolmate of Mr. Ingersoll, and that Col. Wadsworth was also intimate with the governor, and that the governor would do almost any thing to oblige him; that his name must not be mentioned to Mr. Muhlenburg as telling him this; but that if Mr. Muhlenburg could be brought to speak to him first on the subject, he would then do any thing in his power for them; and told him not to speak to him, if he should meet him in the street, and said, if his name was mentioned, that he would do nothing. That, on Wednesday, Clingman saw Col. Wadsworth at Reynolds' house; he did not find her at home, but left a note; but, on going out, he met her, and said he had seen everybody and done every thing.
Mrs. Reynolds told Clingman that she had received money of Col. Hamilton, since her husband's confinement, enclosed in a note, which note she had burned.
After Reynolds was discharged, which was eight or nine o'clock on Wednesday evening: about twelve o'clock at night, Mr. Reynolds sent a letter to Col. Hamilton by a girl; Reynolds followed the girl, and Clingman followed him; he saw the girl go into Col. Hamilton's house; Clingman then joined Reynolds, and they walked back and forward in the street until the girl returned, and informed Reynolds that he need not go out of town that night, but call on him early in the morning. In the morning, between seven and eight o'clock, he saw Reynolds go to Col. Hamilton's house and go in; he has not seen him since, and supposes he has gone out of the State.
Mr. Clingman further adds, that, some time ago, he was informed by Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds, that he had books containing the amount of the cash due to the Virginia line, at his own house at New York, with liberty to copy, and was obtained thro' Mr. Duer.
The above contains the truth to the best of my knowledge and recollection, and to which I am ready to make oath.
Given under my hand, this 13th of December, 1792.
Dear Sir:—I have not tim to tell you the cause of my present troubles only that Mr. has rote you this morning and I know not wether you have got the letter or not and he has swore that If you do not answer It or If he dose not se or hear from you to day he will write Mrs. Hamilton he has just Gone oute and I am a Lone I think you had better come here one moment that you May know the Cause then you will the better know how to act Oh my God I feel more for you than myself and wish I had never been born to give you so mutch unhappiness do not rite to him no not a Line but come here soon do not send or leave any thing in his power
15th December, 1791.
I am very sorry to find out that I have been so Cruelly treated by a person that I took to be my best friend instead of that my greatest Enimy. You have deprived me of every thing thats near and dear to me, I discovred whenever I Came into the house. after being out I found Mrs. Reynolds weeping I ask'd her the Cause of being so unhappy. She always told me that she had bin Reding. and she could not help Crying when she Red any thing that was Afecting. but seing her Repeatedly in that Setevation gave me some suspicion to think that was not the Cause, as fortain would have it. before matters was carred to two great a length. I discovered a letter directed to you which I copied of and put it in the place where I found it without being discovered by Her. and then the evening after. I was Curious anough to watch her. and see give a leter to a Black man in Market Street. which I followed him to your door. after that I Returned home some time in the evening, and I broached the matter to her and Red the Copy to her which she fell upon her knees and asked forgiveness and discovered every thing to me Respecting the matter and ses that she was unhappy. and not knowing what to do without some assistance. She called on you for the lone of some money. which you toald her you would call on her the Next Evening. which accordingly you did. and there Sir you took the advantage a poor Broken harted woman. instead of being a Friend. you have acted the part of the most Cruelist man in existance. you have made a whole family miserable. She ses there is no other man that she Care for in this world. now Sir you have bin the Cause of Cooling her affections for me. She was a woman. I should as soon sespect an angiel from heven. and one where all my happiness was depending. and I would Sacrefise almost my life to make her Happy. but now I am determined to have satisfaction. it shant be onely one family thats miserable. for I am Robbed of all happiness in this world I am determined to leve her. and take my daughter with me that Shant see her poor mother Lot. now Sir if I Cant see you at your house call and see me. for there is no person that Knowes any thing as yet. And I am tiremd to see you, by some means or other. for you have made me an unhappy man for eve. put it to your own case and Reflect one moment. that you should know shush a thing of your wife. would not you have satisfaction yes. and so will I before one day passes me more.
I am yours
Saturday Evening, 17th December, 1791.
I now have taken till tuesday morning to Consider on What Steps will be Best for me to take. I should not have let the matter Rested till then, if it had not been for the news of the death of my Sister. which it Semes as if all my troubles are Comming on me in one moment. if it had been any other person except yourself. that treated me as you have done. I should not have taken the trouble to Call on them more than once. but your being in the Station of life you are. induses me to way every Surcomcance well Respecting the matter it will be impossible for me ever to think of liveing or Reconsiling myself to Stay with a woman that I no has plased her affections on you. and you know if you Reflect one moment. that you have been the sole Cause of it. I have all Reason in the world to believe its true. I am that man that will always have Satisfaction by some means or other when treated ill. Especially when I am treated in the mannor, as you have done. you may rest ashured that the matter as yet is Not known. If think proper to Call at the sign of the George tuesday morning at 8 oclock I will be there for your house or office is no place to converse about these matters. if that is not agreeable to you. let me know what place I shall see you at. at that time, for I am determined to know what corse I shall take, more miserable I cant be than I am at present. let the consequence be as it will. for when I come into the house. I find the wife always weeping and praying that I wont leve her. And its all on your account. for if you had not seeked for her Ruin it would not have happined. Could you not have Relieved the disstressed without transgressing in the mannor you have done. Sertainly you did not show the man of honnor. in taking the advantage of the afflicted, when Calling on you as a father and protector in the time of disstress. put that home to yourself and tell me what you would do in such a Case. or what amend Could be made to you or wether it would be possible to make any. you will answer no. it be impossible after being Robbed of all your happiness and your whole family made misseable. I know you are a man thats not void of feeling. I am not a man that wishes to do any thing Rashly. or plunge myself into Ruin. now if you think proper to se me at the place I have mentioned. or any other. please to let me no before. for I wish to be by ourselfs where we Can converse together. for if you do not Call on me or let me no where I Can see. you at that time. I shant call on you after this
I am yours
19th December, 1791.
When we were last togeather you then would wis to know my Determination what I would do and. you exspess a wish to do any thing that was in your power to Serve me. its true its in your power to do a great deal for me, but its out of your power to do any thing that will Restore to me my Happiness again for if you should give me all you possess would not do it. god knowes I love the woman and wish every blessing may attend her, you have bin the Cause of Winning her love, and I Dont think I Can be Reconciled to live with Her, when I know I hant her love. now Sir I have Considered on the matter Serously. I have this preposial to make to you. give me the Sum Of thousand dollars and I will leve the town and take my daughter with me and go where my Friend Shant here from me and leve her to Yourself to do for her as you thing proper. I hope you wont think my request is in a view of making Me Satisfaction for the injury done me. for there is nothing that you Can do will compensate for it. your answer I shall expect This evening or in the morning early, as I am Determined to wate no longer till. I know my lot
Received December 22 of Alexander Hamilton six hundred dollars on account of a sum of one thousand dollars due to me.
Received Philadelphia January 3. 1792 of Alexander Hamilton four hundred dollars in full of all demands.
17th January, 1792
I Suppose you will be surprised in my writing to you Repeatedly as I do. but dont be Alarmed for its Mrs. R. wish to See you. and for My own happiness and hers. I have not the Least Objections to your Calling. as a friend to Boath of us. and must rely intirely on your and her honnor. when I conversed with you last. I told you it would be disagreeable to me for you to Call, but Sence, I am pritty well Convinsed, She would onely wish to See you as a friend. and sence I am Reconciled to live with her, I would wish to do every thing for her happiness and my own, and Time may ware of every thing, So dont fail in Calling as Soon as you Can make it Conveanant. and I Rely on your befriending me if there should anything Offer that would be to my advantage. as you Express a wish to befriend me. So I am
yours to Serve
Monday Night, Eight C., L
I need not acquaint that I had Ben Sick all moast Ever sence I saw you as I am sure you allready no it Nor would I solicit a favor wich Is so hard to obtain were It not for the Last time Yes Sir Rest assurred I will never ask you to Call on me again I have kept my Bed those tow dayes and now rise from My pilliow wich your Neglect has filled with the shorpest thorns I no Longer doubt what I have Dreaded to no but stop I do not wish to se you to to say any thing about my Late disappointment No I only do it to Ease a heart wich is ready Burst with Greef I can neither Eat or sleep I have Been on the point of doing the moast horrid acts at I shudder to think where I might been what will Become of me. In vain I try to Call reason to aid me but alas ther Is no Comfort for me I feel as If I should not Contennue long and all the wish I have Is to se you once more that I may my doubts Cleared up for God sake be not so voed of all humannity as to deni me this Last request but if you will not Call some time this night I no its late but any tim between this and twelve A Clock I shall be up Let me Intreat you If you wont Come to send me a Line oh my head I can rite no more do something to Ease My heart or Els I no not what I shall do for so I cannot live Commit this to the care of my maid be not offended I beg.
Wednesday Morning ten of Clock.
I have kept my bed those tow days past but find my self mutch better at presant though yet full distreesed and shall till I se you fretting was the Cause of my Illness I thought you had been told to stay away from our house and yesterday with tears I my Eyes I beged Mr. once more to permit your visits and he told upon his honnour that he had not said anything to you and that It was your own fault believe me I scarce knew how to beleeve my senses and if my seturation was insupportable before I heard this It was now more so fear prevents my saing more only that I shal be miserable till I se you and if my dear freend has the Least Esteeme for the unhappy Maria whos greateest fault Is Loveing him he will come as soon as he shall get this and till that time My breast will be the seate of pain and woe
P. S. If you cannot come this Evening to stay just come only for one moment as I shal be Lone Mr. is going to sup with a friend from New York.
the Girl tells me that you said If I wanted any thing that I should write this morning alas my friend want what what can ask for but peace wich you alone can restore to my tortured bosom and do My dear Col hamilton on my kneese Let me Intreatee you to reade my Letter and Comply with my request tell the bearer of this or give her a line you need not be the least affraid let me not die with fear have pity on me my freend for I deserve it I would not solicit this favor but I am sure It cannot injure you and will be all the happiness I Ever Expect to have But oh I am disstressed more than I can tell My heart Is ready to burst and my tears wich once could flow with Ease are now denied me Could I only weep I would thank heaven and bless the hand that
Sunday Evening 24th March. 1792.
On my entering the Room the last evening. I found Mrs Reynolds in a setuvation little different from distraction and for some time could not prevail on her to tell me the Cause. at last She informed me that you had been here likewise of a letter she had wrote you in a fright. which she need not have don as I Never intended doing any thing I told her but did it to humble Her. for the imprudent language she made yuse of to me. and You may Rest ashured sir, that I have not a wish to do any thing that may give you or your family a moments pain I know not what you may think of me. but suppose yourself for a moment in my setuvation. that your wife whom you tenderly love. should plase her affections on another object and hear her say. that all her happiness depends intirely on that object. what would you do in such a Case. would you have acted as I have don. I have Consented to things which I thought I never could have don. but I have dun it to make life tolerable. and for the sake of a person whose happiness is dearer to me than my own. I have another afliction added to the Rest that is almost insupportable. I find when ever you have been with her. She is Cheerful and kind. but when you have not in some time she is Quite to Reverse. and wishes to be alone by her self. but when I tell her of it. all her answer is she Cant help it. and hopes I will forgive her. shurely you Cannot wonder if I should act ever so imprudent. though at present if I could take all her Grief upon myself I would do it with pleasure. the excess of which alarm me untill now. I have had no idea of. I have spent this day at her bed side in trying to give her the Consolation which I myself stand in need of. she also tell me, you wish to see me tomorrow evening and then I shall Convince you. that I would not wish to trifle with you And would much Rather add to the happiness of all than to distress any
am sir Your
Reade this all
Sunday Night one O'Clock
My dear friend
In a state of mind which know language can paint I take up the pen but alas I know not what I write or how to give you an idea of the anguish wich at this moment rends my heart yes my friend I am doomed to drink the bitter cup of affliction Pure and unmixed but why should I repine why pour forth my wretched soul in fruitless complainings for you have said It you have commanded and I must submit tow heaven Inexorable heaven Is deaf to my anguish and has marked me out for the child of sorrow oh my dear friend wether shall I fly for consolation oh all all consolation is shut against me there is not the least gleme of hope but oh merciful God forgive me and you my friend Comply with this Last Request Let me once more se you and unbosom Myself to you perhaps I shal be happier after It I have mutch to tell wich I dare not write And which you ought to know oh my dear Sir give me your advice for once In an Affair on wich depends my Existence Itself Think not my friend that I say this to make you come and se me and that I have nothing to tell you for heaven by which I declare knows that I have woes to relate wich I never Expected to have known accept by the name Come therefore to-morrow sometime or Els in the Evening do I beg you to come gracious God had I the world I would lay It at your feet If I could only se you oh I must or I shall lose my senses at It is not because I think to prevail on you to visit me again no my dear Col Hamilton I do not think of It but will when I se you do just as you tell me so doant be offended with me for pleading so hard to se you If you do not think it proper to come here Let me know by a line where I shal se you and what hour you need not put your name to It or mine Either Just direct Mr or Els leve It blank adieu my Ever dear Col hamilton you may form to yourself an Idea of my distress for I Cant desscribe It to you Pray for me and be kind to me Let me se you death now would be welcome Give
3d, April, 1792.
I hope you will pardon me in taking the liberty I do In troubling you so offen. it hurts me to let you Know my Setivation. I should take it a a protickeler if you would Oblige me with the lone of about thirty Dollars I am in hopes in a fue days I shall be In a more better Setivation. and then I shall Be able to make you ample Satisfaction for your Favours shewn me. I want it for some little Necessaries of life for my family. sir you granting the above favour this morning will very much Oblige your most Obedient and humble Servant
N B the inclose is a Receipt for Ninety dollars. that is if you Can Oblige me with the thirty. thats Including Boath Sums
Received philadelphia 3d. April. 1792 of Alexander Hamilton Esqr. Ninety dollars which I promise to pay on demand
7th, April. 1792.
I am sorry to inform you my setivation is as such. I am indebted to a man in this town about 45. dollars which he will wate no longer on me. now sir I am sorrey to be troubleing you So Offen. which if you Can Oblige me with this to-day. you will do me infenate service. that will pay Nearly all I owe in this town except yourself. I have some property on the North River wich I have Wrote to my Brother sell which as soon as it Come in my hands. I pay you every shilling with strictest Justice you Oblige me with. the inclose is the Receipt, for the amount
I am sir with due regard. your humble servant
Received philadelphia, 7th. April. 1792. of Alexander Hamilton Esqr. Forty five dollars which I promise to pay on demand
17th, April. 1792.
I am sorry to be the barer of So disagreeable. an unhappy infermation. I must tell you Sir that I have bin the most unhappiest man. for this five days in Existance, Which you aught to be the last person I ever Should tell my troubles to. ever Sence the night you Calld and gave her the Blank Paper. She has treated me more Cruel than pen cant paint out. and Ses that She is determed never to be a wife to me any more, and Ses that it Is a plan of ours. what has past god knows I Freely forgive you and dont wish to give you fear or pain a moment on the account of it. now Sir I hope you will give me your advise as freely as if Nothing had eve passed Between us I think it is in your power to make matter all Easy again. and I suppose you to be that Man of fealling that you would wish to make every person happy Where it in you power I shall wate to See you at the Office if its Convenant. I am sir with Asteem yours
23d. April. 1792.
I am sorry I am in this disagreeable sutivation which Obliges me to trouble you So offen as I do. but I hope it wont be long before it will be In my power to discharge what I am indebted to you Nothing will give me greater pleasure I must Sir ask the loan of thirty dollars more from you, which I shall esteem as a particular favour. and you may Rest ashured that I will pay you with Strictest Justice. for the Reliefe you have afforded me, the Inclosed is the Receipt for the thirty dollars. I shall wate at your Office. Sir for an answer I am sir your very Humble Servant
2d May, 1792.
I must now forever forbid you of visiting Mrs. R any more I was in hopes that it would in time ware off, but I find there is no hopes. So I determed to put a finell end to it. if its in my power. for I find by your Seeing her onely Renews the Friendship, and likewise when you Call you are fearful any person Should See you am I a person of Such a bad Carector. that you would not wish to be seen Coming in my house in the front way, all any Person Can say of me is that I am poore and I dont know if that is any Crime. So I must meet my fate, I have my Reasons for it for I cannot be Reconsiled to it. for there is know person Can tell the pain it gives me except the were plased in my sutivation I am sure the world would despise me if the Onely new what I have bin Reconsiled to, I am in hopes in a short time to make you amends for your favour Rendered me I am Sir your humble Servant
Saturday Morning the June 2.
I once take up the pen to solicit The favor of seing again oh Col hamilton what have I done that you should thus Neglect me Is it because I am unhappy But stop I will not say you have for perhaps you have caled and have found no opportunity to Come In at least I hope you have I am now A lone and shall be for a few days I believe till Wensday though am not sartain and would wish to se you this Evening I poseble If not as soon as you can make It convenant oh my deer freend how shal I plede Enough what shal I say Let me beg of you to Come and If you never se me again oh if you think It best I will submit to It and take a long and last adieu
for heaven sake keep me not In suspince Let me know your Intention Either by a Line or Catline.
I am now under the necessity of asking a favour from you Which if Can Oblige me with the loan of three Hundred dollars. it will be in my power to make five hundred Before the Next week is out. and if you Can oblege me with it. you may rely on haveing of it again the last of Next Week. if I am alive and well. the use I wont it for is to Subscribe to the turn pike Road. there is a number of gentleman in town wants me to go up to Lancaster to Subscribe for them. no sir if you Can oblige as I want to leve town tomorrow morning and the books will be open for subscribing on monday morning Next. so that I shall have little time to get there. you never Sir Can oblige me more than Complying with the above, please to let me know between this and 4 oClock if you dont I shant be able to go—from your Humble Sev't
23d June. 1792.
Your Goodness will I hope overlook the present application you will infenately Oblige me if you Can let me have the Loan of fifty dollars. for a few days. what little money I had I put into the turnpike Scrip. and I dont like to sell At the low advance the are selling at. at present, as its very low. if you Can Oblige me with that much in the morning sir you shall have it in a very short time again and you Will very much Oblige your Humble and Obed. Serv.
N B. you will I hope pardon me in taking the liberty to call today. but my Necessaty is such that it Oblige me to do it: sunday evening.
Received philadelphia 24th June. 1792 of Alexander Hamilton Esq. Fifty Dollars. which I promise to pay on demand to the said Alexr. Hamilton or Order as witness my hand
24th. August. 1792.
When I Conversed with you last I mentioned that I was going to move. Sence that I have moved I have taken a very convenant house for a boarding house. but being disappointed in receiving Some money. put it entirely out of my power to furnish the house I have taken. I have four genteal boarders will come to live with me, as soon as I can get the Rooms furnished. dear Sir, this is my Setuvation. I am in no way of business. the Cash last lent me, inable me to pay my Rent. and some little debts I had Contracted for my Familys youse. now sir if I Can ask a favour once more of the loan of two Hundred dollars. I will give you Surity of all I process. for the payment of what I owe you. without your assistance. this time I dont know what I shall do. Mrs. Reynolds and myself has made a Calculation. and find with that much money will inable us to take in four boarders. and I am in hopes in the meantime will. something will turn up in my favour. which will enable me to keep myself and famy. dear Sir your Complying with the above will for ever, lay me under the greatist Obligation to you and I will. you may Rest ashured. Repay it again as soon as it is in my power.
I am Honored Sir with Respect your most Obedt. and Humble Servt.
Vine Street No. 161 Second door from the Corner of fifth Street
30th Aug. 1792.
you will I hope pardon me if I intrude on your goodness thinking the multiplycity of business. you have to encounter With. has been the cause of my not hereing from you. which induces me to write the Second time. flatering myself it will be in your Power to Comply with my Request. which I shall make it my whole Study. to Remit it to you as soon as its in my power your Compyance dear Sir will very much
Oblige your most Obed. and Humble Servant.
Vine street No. 161, one door from the Corner of Fifth Street.
Henry Seckel of the City aforesaid Merchant maketh oath that on or about the thirteenth day of November in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety two Jacob Clingman sent for this Deponent to the house of Hilary Baker, Esquire, then Alderman, that this Deponent went accordingly to the house of the said Alderman and was there requested by the said Jacob Clingman to become his bail which he did upon the promise of the said Clingman to deposit with him a sum in certificates sufficient to cover and secure him for so becoming bail—That the said Clingman having failed to make the said deposit according to his promise this Deponent applied to the said Hilary Baker and obtained for him a warrant upon which the said Clingman was arrested and carried again to the said Hilary Baker—That said Clingman again urged this Deponent to become his bail but he declining said Clingman requested this Deponent to go and bring to him one James Reynolds from whom as this Deponent understood the said Clingman expected to obtain assistance towards his release from Custody—That this Deponent went accordingly to the said James Reynolds and in the name of Clingman engaged him to accompany the Deponent to the House of the said Alderman where the said James Reynolds was also apprehended and detained—That thereupon the said James Reynolds requested this Deponent to carry a letter for him to Alexander Hamilton then Secretary of the Treasury—that this Deponent carried the said letter as requested and after two or three calls found the said Alexander Hamilton and delivered the letter to him—that the said Hamilton after reading it mentioned to this Deponent that he had known the father of the said Reynolds during the war with Great Britain, and would be willing to serve the said James, if he could with propriety, but that it was not consistent with the duty of his office to do what Reynolds now requested; and also mentioned to this Deponent that Reynolds and Clingman had been doing something very bad and advised this Deponent to have nothing to do with them lest he might bring himself into trouble—And this Deponent further saith that he never had any conversation or communication whatever with the said Alexander Hamilton respecting the said Reynolds or Clingman till the time of carrying the said letter. And this Deponent further saith that the said Clingman formerly lived with this Deponent and kept his books which as he supposes was the reason of his sending for this Deponent to become his bail thinking that this Deponent might be willing to befriend him.
Sworn this 19th day of July
MDCCXCVII before me
Having perused the fifth and sixth numbers of a late publication in this City entitled The History ofthe United States for the Year 1796, and having reviewed certain letters and documents which have remained in my possession since the Year 1792, I do hereby at the request of Alexander Hamilton Esquire of New York Certify and declare,
That in the Month of December 1792, I was desired by Mr. Hamilton to be present at his house as the witness of an interview which had been agreed upon between himself and James Monroe, Frederick Augustus Muhlenburg and Abraham Venable, Esquires, with which I accordingly complied.
The object of the interview was to remove from the minds of those Gentlemen, certain suspicions which had been excited by suggestions of James Reynolds then in Prison and Jacob Clingman a Clerk to Mr. Muhlenburg, (against both of whom prosecutions had been instituted for frauds against the United States,) that Mr. Hamilton had been concerned in promoting or assisting speculation in the public funds, contrary to Law and his duty as Secretary of the Treasury.
The conference was commenced on the part of Mr. Monroe by reading certain Notes from Mr. Hamilton and a Narrative of conversations which had been held with the said Reynolds and Clingman—After the grounds upon which the suspicions rested, had been fully stated, Mr. Hamilton entered into an explanation and by a variety of written documents, which were read, fully evinced, that there was nothing in the transactions to which Reynolds and Clingman had referred, which had any connection with, or relation to speculations in the Funds, claims upon the United States, or any public or official transactions or duties whatever. This was rendered so completely evident, that Mr. Venable requested Mr. Hamilton to desist from exhibiting further proofs. As however an explanation had been desired by the Gentleman before named, Mr. Hamilton insisted upon being allowed to read such documents as he possessed, for the purpose of obviating every shadow of doubt respecting the propriety of his Official conduct.
After Mr. Hamilton's explanation terminated Messrs. Monroe, Muhlenburg, and Venable, severally acknowledged their entire satisfaction, that the affair had no relation to Official duties, and that it ought not to affect or impair the public confidence in Mr. Hamilton's character;—at the same time, they expressed their regrets at the trouble which the explanation had occasioned. During a conversation in the streets of Philadelphia immediately after retiring from Mr. Hamilton's house Mr. Venable repeated to me, that the explanation was entirely satisfactory, and expressed his concern, that he had been a party to whom it had been made. Though in the course of the conversation Mr. Venable expressed his discontent with public measures which had been recommended by Mr. Hamilton, yet he manifested a high respect for his Talents, and confidence in the integrity of his character.
When Mr. Reynolds was in Prison, it was reported to me, that he had threatened to make disclosures injurious to the character of some head of a Department. This report I communicated to Mr. Hamilton, who advised me to take no steps towards a liberation of Reynolds while such a report existed and remained unexplained. This was antecedent to the interview between Mr. Hamilton, and Messrs. Monroe, Muhlenburg, and Venable, or to any knowledge on my part of the circumstance by which it was occasioned.
The Offence for which Reynolds and Clingman were prosecuted by my direction, was for suborning a person to commit perjury for the purpose of obtaining Letters of Administration on the estate of a person who was living. After the prosecution was commenced, Clingman confessed to me, that he and Reynolds were possessed of lists of the names and sums due to certain Creditors of the United States, which lists had been obtained from the Treasury—Both Clingman and Reynolds obstinately refused for some time to deliver up the lists or to disclose the name of the person, through whose infidelity they had been obtained. At length on receiving a promise from me, that I would endeavor to effect their liberation from the consequences of the prosecution, they consented to surrender the lists, to restore the balance which had been fraudulently obtained, and to reveal the name of the person, by whom the lists had been furnished.
This was done conformably to the proposition contained in a letter from Clingman dated December 4, 1792, of which a copy is hereunto annexed. The original letter and the lists which were surrendered now remain in my possession. Agreeably to my engagement I informed Jared Ingersol Esqr. Attorney General of Pennsylvania, that an important discovery had been made, and the condition by which it could be rendered useful to the public in preventing future frauds; in consequence of which the prosecutions against Clingman and Reynolds were dismissed.
In the publication referred to, it is suggested that the lists were furnished by Mr. Duer; this is an injurious mistake—nothing occurred at any time to my knowledge, which could give colour to a suspicion, that Mr. Duer was in any manner directly or indirectly concerned with or privy to the transaction. The infidelity was committed by a clerk in the office of the Register—Mr. Duer resigned his office in March, 1790, while the Treasury was at New York—the Clerk who furnished the lists was first employed in Philadelphia in January 1791. The Accounts from which the lists were taken, were all settled at the Treasury subsequent to the time last mentioned; on the discovery above stated the Clerk was dismissed, and has not since been employed in the public offices.
The name of the Clerk who was dismissed has not been publicly mentioned for a reason which appears in Clingman's letter; but if the disclosure is found necessary to the vindication of an innocent character it shall be made.
Certified in Philadelphia, this twelfth day of July, 1797.
copy of a letter from jacob clingman to the comptroller of the treasury
December 4, 1792.
Having unfortunately for myself been brought into a very disagreeable situation, on account of Letters of Administration taken out by a certain John Delabar on the effects of a certain Ephraim Goodanough, who, it since appears, is still living, I beg leave to mention that I am ready to refund the money to the Treasury or to the proper owner or his order, and if it can be of any service to the Treasury Department or to the United States, in giving up the lists of the names of the persons to whom pay is due, and to disclose the name of the person in the utmost confidence from whom the list was obtained, earnestly hoping that may be some inducement to withdraw the action against me, which if prosecuted can only end in injuring my character without any further advantage to the United States.
I have the honor to be your most humble servant,
Hon. Oliver Wolcott, Esq.
July 5, 1797.
In a pamphlet lately published, entitled No. V. of The History of the United States for 1796, etc., are sundry papers respecting the affair of Reynolds, in which you once had an agency, accompanied with these among other comments. “They [certain attacks on Mr. Monroe] are ungrateful, because he displayed on an occasion, that will be mentioned immediately, the greatest lenity to Mr. Alexander Hamilton, the prime mover of the Federal party. When some of the papers which are now to be laid before the world were submitted to the Secretary; when he was informed that they were to be communicated to President Washington, he entreated in the most anxious tone of deprecation that the measure might be suspended. Mr. Monroe was one of the three gentlemen who agreed to this delay. They gave their consent to it on his express promise of a guarded behavior in future, and because he attached to the suppression of these papers a mysterious degree of solicitude which they, feeling no personal resentment against the individual, were unwilling to augment.” Pages 204 and 205. It is also suggested, page 206, that I made “a volunteer acknowledgment of seduction,” and it must be understood from the context that this acknowledgment was made to the same three gentlemen.
The peculiar nature of this transaction renders it impossible that you should not recollect it in all its parts, and that your own declaration to me at the time contradicts absolutely the construction which the editor of the pamphlet puts upon the affair.
I think myself entitled to ask from your candor and justice a declaration equivalent to that which was made me at the time, in the presence of Mr. Wolcott, by yourself and the two other gentlemen, accompanied by a contradiction of the representations in the comments cited above. And I shall rely upon your delicacy that the manner of doing it will be such as one gentleman has a right to expect from another—especially as you must be sensible that the present appearance of the papers is contrary to the course which was understood between us to be proper, and includes a dishonorable infidelity somewhere. I am far from attributing it to either of the three gentlemen; yet the suspicion naturally falls on some agent made use of by them.
I send you a copy of a memorandum of the substance of your declaration, made by me the morning after our interview.
With consideration, I have the honor to be, Sir,
P. S.—I must beg the favor of expedition in your reply.
Memorandum of Substance of Declaration of Messrs. Monroe, Muhlenburg, and Venable concerning the Affair of J. Reynolds.
That they regretted the trouble and uneasiness which they had occasioned to me in consequence of the representations made to them, that they were perfectly satisfied with the explanation I had given, and that there was nothing in the transaction which ought to affect my character as a public officer or lessen the public confidence in my integrity.
On reflection, I deem it advisable for me to have copies of the several papers which you communicated to me in our interview on Saturday evening, including the notes, and the fragment of Mr. Reynolds' letter to Mr. Clingman. I therefore request that you will either cause copies of these papers to be furnished to me, taken by the person in whose handwriting the declarations which you showed to me were, or will let me have the papers themselves to be copied. It is also my wish that all such papers as are original may be detained from the parties of whom they were had, to put it out of their power to repeat the abuse of them in situations which may deprive me of the advantage of explanation. Considering of how abominable an attempt they have been the instruments, I trust you will feel no scruples about this detention. With consideration
I have the honor to be, Gentlemen,
December 18, 1792.
I have communicated your letter of yesterday to Messrs. Venable and Monroe. The latter has all the papers relating to the subject in his possession, and I have the pleasure to inform you that your very reasonable request will be speedily complied with. I have the honor to be, with much esteem,
Your most obedient,
December 20, 1792.
I have the honor to enclose you copies of the papers requested in yours a few days past. That of the notes you will retain; the others you will be pleased, after transcribing, to return to me.
With due respect, I have the honor to be,
Every thing you desire in the letter above mentioned shall be most strictly complied with.
July 10, 1797.
As I do not reside in the city at present, your letter of the 5th inst. did not reach me time enough to answer by Saturday's post. Whilst I lament the publication of the papers respecting the affair of Reynolds (of which I hope I need not assure you that I had neither knowledge nor agency, for I never saw them since the affair took place, nor was I ever furnished with a copy), I do not hesitate to declare that I regretted the trouble and uneasiness this business had occasioned, and that I was perfectly satisfied with the explanation you gave. At the same time permit me to remind you of your declaration, also made in the presence of Mr. Wolcott, that the information and letters in our possession justified the suspicions we entertained before your explanation took place, and that our conduct toward you in this business was satisfactory. Having no share or agency whatever in the publication or comments you are pleased to cite, I must beg to be excused from making any remarks thereon. Were I to undertake to contradict the many absurdities and falsehoods which I see published on a variety of subjects which heretofore came under my notice, it would require more time than I am willing to sacrifice. I have the honor to be,
Sir, Your obedt. humble servt.,
July 9, 1797.
I have received your letter of the fifth instant by the hands of Mr. Wolcott.
I had heard of the pamphlet you mention some days before, but had not read it. I am entirely ignorant of the Editor, and of the means by which he procured the papers alluded to.
I have had nothing to do with the transaction since the interview with you. I do not possess a copy of the papers at present, nor have I at any time had the possession of any of them. I avoided taking a copy, because I feared that the greatest care which I could exercise in keeping them safely might be defeated by some accident, and that some person or other might improperly obtain an inspection of them. I have endeavored to recollect what passed at the close of the interview which took place with respect to this transaction: it was said, I believe, by us in general terms, that we were satisfied with the explanation that had been given, that we regretted the necessity we had been subjected to in being obliged to make the inquiry, as well as the trouble and anxiety it had occasioned you; and on your part you admitted in general terms that the business as presented to us bore such a doubtful aspect as to justify the inquiry, and that the manner had been satisfactory to you.
I have now to express my surprise at the contents of a letter published yesterday in Fenno's paper, in which you endeavor to impute to party motives the part which I have had in this business, and endeavor to connect me with the releasement of persons committed as you say for heinous crimes. Clingman had been released before I heard of the business, and Reynolds on the very day I received the first intimation of it, arrangements having been previously made for that purpose, by those who had interested themselves to bring it about, so that no application was made to me on that subject, either directly or indirectly, the object being entirely accomplished by other means, and before I was informed of their confinement. If you will take the trouble to examine the transaction you will find this statement correct, and you cannot be insensible of the injury you do me when you say this was an attempt to release themselves from imprisonment by favor of party spirit, and that I was one of the persons resorted to on that ground. I appeal to your candor, and ask you if any part of my conduct in this whole business has justified such an imputation. This having been a joint business, and Mr. Monroe living now in New York, I must avoid saying any thing more on this subject until I can see him and Mr. Muhlenburg together, which I hope will be in the present week.
I am, sir, your humble servant,
Mr. Monroe has the honor to inform Col. Hamilton that he arrived in this city yesterday A.M. 12; that Mr. Muhlenburg and himself are to have a meeting this morning upon the subject which concerns him, and after which Col. Hamilton shall immediately hear from them.
Monday morning, July 16, 1797.
July 17, 1797.
It was our wish to have given a joint answer with Mr. Venable to your favor of the 5th instant concerning the publication of the proceedings in an inquiry in which we were jointly engaged with him in 1792, respecting an affair between yourself and Mr. Reynolds; and into which, from the circumstances attending it, we deemed it our duty to enquire. His departure, however, for Virginia precludes the possibility of so doing at present. We nevertheless readily give such explanation upon that point as we are now able to give; the original papers having been deposited in the hands of a respectable character in Virginia soon after the transaction took place, and where they now are.
We think proper to observe that as we had no agency in or knowledge of the publication of these papers till they appeared, so of course we could have none in the comments that were made on them.
But you particularly wish to know what the impression was which your explanation of that affair made on our minds, in the interview we had with you upon that subject at your own house, as stated in the paper No. V., of the publication referred to; and to which we readily reply, that the impression which we left in your mind, as stated in that number, was that which rested on our own, and which was, that the explanation of the nature of your connection with Reynolds which you then gave removed the suspicions we had before entertained of your being connected with him in speculation. Had not this been the case we should certainly not have left that impression on your mind, nor should we have desisted from the plan we had contemplated in the commencement of the inquiry, of laying the papers before the President of the United States.
We presume that the papers to which our signatures are annexed are in all cases correct. 'T is proper however to observe that as the notes contained in No. V. were intended only as memoranda of the explanation which you gave us in that interview, as likewise the information which was afterwards given us by Mr. Clingman on the same subject, and without a view to any particular use, they were entered concisely and without form. This is sufficiently obvious from the difference which appears in that respect, between the papers which preceded our interview and those contained in No. V. of the publication.
We cannot conclude this letter without expressing our surprise at the contents of a paper in the Gazette of the United States of the 8th instant, which states that the proceedings in the inquiry in question were the contrivance of two very profligate men who sought to obtain their liberation from prison by the favor of party spirit. You will readily recollect that one of those men, Mr. Clingman, was never imprisoned for any crime alleged against him by the Department of the Treasury, and that the other, Mr. Reynolds, was upon the point of being released, and was actually released, and without our solicitation or even wish, by virtue of an agreement made with him by that department before the inquiry began. We feel, too, very sensibly the injustice of the intimation that any of us were influenced by party spirit, because we well know that such was not the case; nor can we otherwise than be the more surprised that such an intimation should now be given, since we well remember that our conduct upon that occasion excited your sensibility, and obtained from you an unequivocal acknowledgment of our candor.
With consideration we are, sir,
I have your letter of this date. It gives me pleasure to receive your explanation of the ambiguous phrase in the paper No. V. published with your signatures and that of Mr. Venable, and your information of the fact, that my explanation had been satisfactory to you.
You express your surprise at the contents of a paper in the Gazette of the United States of the 8th instant. If you will review that paper with care, you will find that what is said about party spirit refers to the view with which the accusation was instituted by Reynolds and Clingman, not to that with which the inquiry was entered into by you. They sought by the favor of party spirit to obtain liberation from prison—but tho' they may have rested their hopes on this ground, it is not said, nor in my opinion implied, that you in making the inquiry were actuated by that spirit. I cannot, however, alter my opinion that they were influenced by the motive ascribed to them. For though, as you observe, Clingman was not in prison (and so far my memory has erred), and though it be true that Reynolds was released before the inquiry began by virtue of an agreement with the Treasury Department (that is, the Comptroller of the Treasury), for a reason of public utility which has been explained to you, yet it will be observed that Clingman as well as Reynolds was actually under a prosecution for the same offence, and that it appears by No. I. of the papers under your signatures, that for a period of more than three weeks, while Clingman was in the act of soliciting the “aid and friendship of Mr. Muhlenburg on behalf of himself and Reynolds to get them released or discharged from the prosecution,” he Clingman frequently dropped hints to Mr. Muhlenburg, that Reynolds had it in his power very materially to injure the Secretary of the Treasury and that Reynolds knew several very improper transactions of his; and at last went so far as to state that “Reynolds said he had it in his power to hang the Secretary of the Treasury, who was deeply concerned in speculation.” From this it appears, that the suggestions to my prejudice were early made, and were connected with the endeavor to obtain relief through Mr. Muhlenburg. I derive from all this a confirmation of my opinion, founded on the general nature of the proceeding, that Reynolds and Clingman, knowing the existence in Congress of a party hostile to my conduct in administration, and that the newspapers devoted to it frequently contained insinuations of my being concerned in improper speculations, formed upon that basis the plan of conciliating the favor and aid of that party towards getting rid of the prosecution by accusing me of speculation. This is what I meant in the publication alluded to and what I must always believe.
With this explanation, you will be sensible that there is nothing in the publication inconsistent with my declaration to you at closing our interview. It is very true, that after the full and unqualified expressions which came from you, together with Mr. Venable,—differing in terms but agreeing in substance,—of your entire satisfaction with the explanation I had given, and that there was nothing in the affair of the nature suggested, accompanied with expressions of regret at the trouble and anxiety occasioned to me,—and when (as I recollect it) some of the gentlemen expressed a hope that the manner of conducting the inquiry had appeared to me fair and liberal,—I replied in substance that though I had been displeased with the mode of introducing the subject to me (which you will remember I manifested at the time in very lively terms), yet that in other respects I was satisfied with and sensible to the candor with which I had been treated. And this was the sincere impression of my mind. With consideration I am, gentlemen,
Your most obedt. and hum. serv.
I send herewith an answer to the joint letter of Mr. Muhlenburg and yourself. It appears to me on reflection requisite to have some explanation on the note of January 2, 1793, with your signature only. It may be inferred from the attention to record the information of Clingman therein stated, after what had passed between us, that you meant to give credit and sanction to the suggestion that the defence set up by me was an imposition. You will, I doubt not, be sensible of the propriety of my requesting you to explain yourself on this point also.
I remain, with consideration,
July 17, 1797.
It is impossible for me to trace back at this moment, occupied as I am with other concerns, all the impressions of my mind at the different periods at which the memoranda were made in the publication to which you refer in your favor of to-day, but I well remember that in entering the one which bears my single signature, although I was surprised at the communication given, yet I neither meant to give nor imply any opinion of my own as to its contents. I simply entered the communication as I received it, reserving to myself the liberty to form an opinion upon it at such future time as I found convenient, paying due regard to all the circumstances connected with it.
I am, sir, with consideration,
Your letter of yesterday in answer to mine of the same date was received last night. I am sorry to say that, as I understand it, it is unsatisfactory. It appears to me liable to this inference, that the information of Clingman had revived the suspicions which my explanation had removed. This would include the very derogatory suspicion, that I had concerted with Reynolds not only the fabrication of all the letters and documents under his hand, but also the forgery of the letters produced as those of Mrs. Reynolds—since these last unequivocally contradict the pretence communicated by Clingman. I therefore request you to say whether this inference be intended.
With consideration, I am, sir,
Your very obedient servant,
July 18, 1797.
July 18, 1797.
I can only observe that in entering the note which bears my single signature, I did not convey or mean to convey any opinion of my own, as to the faith which was due to it, but left it to stand on its own merits, reserving to myself the right to judge of it, as upon any fact afterwards communicated according to its import and authenticity.
With due respect I am, sir,
July 20, 1797.
In my last letter to you I proposed a simple and direct question, to which I had hoped an answer equally simple and direct. That which I have received, though amounting, as I understand it, to an answer in the negative, is conceived in such circuitous terms as may leave an obscurity upon the point which ought not to have remained. In this situation, I feel it proper to tell you frankly my impression of the matter.
The having any communication with Clingman, after that with me, receiving from him and recording information depending on the mere veracity of a man undeniably guilty of subornation of perjury, and one whom the very documents which he himself produced to you showed sufficiently1 to be the accomplice of a vindictive attempt upon me, the leaving it in a situation where, by possibility, it might rise up at a future and remote day to inculpate me, without the possibility perhaps from the lapse of time of establishing the refutation, and all this without my privity or knowledge, was, in my opinion, in a high degree indelicate and improper. To have given or intended to give the least sanction or credit, after all that was known to you, to the mere assertion of either of the three persons—Clingman, Reynolds, or his wife—would have betrayed a disposition toward me which, if it appeared to exist, would merit epithets the severest that I could apply.
With consideration I am, sir,
July 21, 1797.
Your favor of yesterday (to use your own language) gives an indelicate and improper coloring to the topic to which it refers. I will endeavor, in a few words, to place the points in discussion where they ought to stand.
It was never our intention other than to fulfil our duty to the public, in our inquiry into your conduct, and with delicacy and propriety to yourself, nor have we done otherwise.
To this truth, in respect to the inquiry as to our conduct upon that occasion, you have so often assented, that nothing need now be said on that point. Indeed, I should have considered myself as highly criminal, advised as I was of your conduct, had I not united in the inquiry into it; for what offence can be more reprehensible in an officer, charged with the finances of his country, than to be engaged in speculation? And what other officer, who had reason to suspect this, could justify himself for failing to examine into the truth of this charge? We did so; apprised you of what we had done; heard your explanation, and were satisfied with it. It is proper to observe, that in the explanation you gave, you admitted all the facts upon which our opinion was founded, but yet accounted for them, and for your connection with Reynolds, on another principle. 'T is proper also to observe that we admitted your explanation upon the faith of your own statement, and upon the documents you presented, though I do not recollect they were proved, or that proof was required of them.
You will remember that in this interview in which we acknowledged ourselves satisfied with the explanation you gave, we did not bind ourselves not to hear further information on the subject, or even not to proceed further in case we found it our duty so to do. This would have been improper, because subsequent facts might be disclosed which might change our opinion, and in which case it would be our duty to proceed further. And with respect to Mr. Clingman we thought it highly proper to hear what he had to say, because we had before heard him on the subject, and because you had acknowledged all his previous information to be true, and because he was a party and had a right to be heard on it. You observe by the entry that we did not seek him, nor even apprise him of the explanation received from you; on the contrary, that he sought us, and in consequence of information received from Mr. Wolcott.
The subject is now before the public, and I repeat to you what I have said before, that I do not wish any opinion of my own to be understood as conveyed in the entry which bears my single signature, because when I entered it I had no opinion upon it, as sufficiently appears by my subsequent conduct, having never acted upon it, and deposited the papers with a friend when I left my country, in whose hands they still are. Whether the imputations against you as to speculation are well or ill founded, depends upon the facts and circumstances which appear against you upon your defence. If you show that they are ill founded, I shall be contented, for I have never undertaken to accuse you since our interview, nor do I now give any opinion on it, reserving to myself the liberty to form one, after I see your defence; being resolved, however, so far as depends on me, not to bar the door to free inquiry as to the merits of the case in either view.
This contains a just state of this affair so far as I remember it, which I presume will be satisfactory to you: and to which I shall only add that as on the one hand I shall always be ready to do justice to the claims of any one upon me, so I shall always be equally prepared to vindicate my conduct and character against the attacks of any one who may assail them.
With due respect, I am, sir,
Your obedient servant,
Mary Williams of the City aforesaid Boarding House Keeper maketh Oath that She is acquainted with Mrs. M. Reynolds formerly reputed to be the Wife of Mr. James Reynolds that her acquaintance commenced by the said Mrs. Reynolds calling upon her to obtain admission as a lodger which the Deponent declined that afterwards the Deponent frequently saw the said Mrs. Reynolds and also frequently saw her write that from this she the Deponent conceives herself to be well acquainted with the hand writing of the said Mrs. Reynolds and is well satisfied that the handwriting of the letters hereunto annexed numbered I—VIII—IX—X—XII—XIII—is of the proper handwriting of the said Mrs. Reynolds to identify which letters the more particularly this Deponent hath upon each of them endorsed her name.
Sworn this XXIst day of July MDCCXCVII. before me
One of the Aldermen of the City of Philadelphia.
Wednesday 5th, December, 1792.
too well you are acquainted with my unfortenate setuvation, to give you an explanation thereof, I am informed by a Note from Mrs. Reynolds this Evening, wherein She informed Me that you have bin informed that I Should have Said, if I were not discharged in two days. that I would make Some of the heads of the Departments tremble. now Sir I declare to god, that I never have said any Such thing. nor never have I said any thing, against any Head of a department whatever. all I have Said, Sir. is that I am under the Necessaty of letting you Know. which of the Clarks in the publick Office has givein out the List, of the ballance due. from the United States. to the individual States. and when it Comes to your knowledge, that the would tremble, Now Can I have an Enemy So base as to lodge such False allegations to my Charge, which is tottely Groundless. and without the least foundation Immaginable. now Sir, if you will give me the pleashure of waiting uppon your honour tomorrow I will give you every information that lies in my power Respecting the Matter. which I hope it will give you final Satisfaction. what I have done never Was with a wish to Rong the United States or any Other person whatever, the person that Administer On this mans pay. which he Received from the United States. had my monies in his hands and would not transfer the Certificate to Mrs. Clingman and myself untill wee signed the bond of indamnification. to him now dear Sir. that was our Situvation. to Secure our own Interest. wee executed the Bond, which was an Oversight of ours, now Sir Can you Suppose In my present Setuvation, that I would say anything against you Sir or any Other head of department whatever, where it even was in my power which was not. Especially where all my hopes and Dependance where. now dear Sir, think of my poor innocent. family. not of me for them I Onely wish to live
I am, honnored Sir
Your most Obediant and Humble Servt.
Having seen in a pamphlet published in Philadelphia, entitled The History of the United States, No V a paragraph to the following effect:
“During the late canvass for the election of a President, Webster, in his Minerva, gave a hint that Mr. Hamilton would be an advisable candidate. A person in this city, who chanced to see this newspaper, wrote immediately to a correspondent in New York. The letter desired him to put himself in the way of Mr. Hamilton, and inform him that if Webster should in future print a single paragraph on that head, the papers referred to were instantly to be laid before the world. The message was delivered to Mr. Hamilton and the Minerva became silent.”
I declare that the contents of the foregoing paragraph, as far as they relate to myself, are totally false. I never entertained an idea that Mr. Hamilton was a candidate for the Presidency or Vice-Presidency at the late election. I never uttered, wrote, or published a hint or suggestion of the kind; nor did I ever receive from Mr. Hamilton or any other person, either directly or indirectly, any hint or communication to discontinue any notice or suggestions on that subject. I have examined the Minerva for several months previous to the late election, and I cannot find a suggestion published in that paper, of Mr. Hamilton's being a candidate as aforesaid, either from any correspondent or republished from any other paper; nor have I the least knowledge what the suggestions in the foregoing paragraph allude to.
My own idea uniformly was, that Mr. Adams and Mr. Pinckney were the only candidates supported by Mr. Hamilton and the friends of our government in general.
Sworn the 13th July, 1797, before me, ABM SKINNER, N. P.
June 27, 1797.
It would have highly gratified me had it been in my power to furnish the relief you ask; but I am preparing for my departure, and find, on winding up my affairs, that I shall not have one dollar to spare. It is, therefore, with sincere regret I have nothing better to tender you than the sentiments of good will of
Sir, Your most obedient servant,
June 28, 1797.
I know well that you were a clerk in the Treasury Department while I was in the office of Secretary of State; but as I had no relation with the interior affairs of that office, I had no opportunity of being acquainted with you personally, except the single occasion on which you called on me. The length of time you were in the office affords the best presumption in your favor, and the particular misunderstanding which happened to you with your principals may account for your not having obtained from them those certificates of character which I am not able to supply. I doubt not, however, that a knowledge of your conduct, wherever you establish yourself, will soon render all certificates unnecessary, and I sincerely wish you may obtain employment which may evince and reward good conduct.
I am, sir, Your very humble servant,
June 28, 1797.
I have maturely considered your letter of yesterday, delivered to me at about nine last night, and cannot find in it cause of satisfaction.
There appears to me, in the first place, an attempt to prop the veracity of Clingman by an assertion which is not correct—namely, that I had acknowledged all his previous information to be true. This was not and could not be the fact. I acknowledged parts of it to be true, but certainly not the whole. On the contrary, I am able to prove that a material part of it, according to its obvious intent, is false, and I know other parts of it to be so. Indeed, in one sense, I could not have made the acknowledgment alleged without acknowledging myself guilty.
In the second place, there appears a design at all events to drive me to the necessity of a formal defence, while you know that the extreme delicacy of its nature must be very disagreeable to me. It is my opinion that, as you have been the cause, no matter how, of the business appearing in a shape which gives it an adventitious importance, and this against the intent of a confidence reposed in you by me, as contrary to what was delicate and proper, you recorded Clingman's testimony without my privity and thereby gave it countenance, as I had given you an explanation with which you was satisfied, and which could leave no doubt upon a candid mind, it was incumbent upon you, as a man of honor and sensibility, to have come forward in a manner that would have shielded me completely from the unpleasant effects brought upon me by your agency. This you have not done.
On the contrary, by the affected reference of the matter to a defence which I am to make, and by which you profess your opinion is to be decided—you imply that your suspicions are still alive. And as nothing appears to have shaken your original conviction but the wretched tale of Clingman, which you have thought fit to record, it follows that you are pleased to attach a degree of weight to that communication which cannot be accounted for on any fair principles. The result, in my mind, is that you have been and are actuated by motives towards me malignant and dishonorable; nor can I doubt that this will be the universal opinion, when the publication of the whole affair which I am about to make shall be seen.
I am, sir,
Your humble servant,
July 22, 1797.
July 25, 1797.
I received your letter of the 22d instant by Major Jackson, and have paid it the attention it merits.
Always anxious to do justice to every one, it would afford me pleasure could I answer it in a manner satisfactory to your feelings; but while the respect which I owe to myself forbids me replying in that harsh style which you have adopted, that same respect, with an attention to truth, according to the impressions existing on my mind, will compel me upon all occasions to place this affair on its true ground.
Why you have adopted this style I know not. If your object is to render this affair a personal one between us you might have been more explicit, since you well know, if that is your disposition, what my determination is, and to which I shall firmly adhere. But if it is to illustrate truth, and place the question on its true merits, as I have always been disposed to do, it appears illy calculated to promote that end.
I have constantly said and I repeat again, that in making an entry which appears after our interview with you, and which ought to have been signed by the other gentlemen as well as myself, I never intended to convey an opinion upon it, nor does it convey any opinion of my own, but merely notes what Clingman stated, leaving it upon his own credit only. But you wish me to state that this communication made no impression on my mind, and this I shall not state, because in so doing I should be incorrect. On the other hand, I do not wish to be understood as intimating that this communication had absolutely changed my opinion, for in that event I should have acted on it, whereas, the contrary was the case as you well know. And with respect to the propriety of noting down that communication, I have no doubt on that point, since I should have noted any other that might have been made on the same topic by that or any other party. Indeed if it was proper to note the communications first received, it was equally so to note this, and that you did not disapprove. Had we proceeded in it you may be well assured we should have apprised you of it, as in the other case, as well as from motives of candor towards you, as propriety on our own parts.
It is not my wish to discuss the fact whether you admitted all or only parts of Clingman's communication in our interview with you, because upon the principle in which I stand engaged in this affair, not as your accuser, but called on to explain, it is one of no importance to me. Such was the impression upon my mind; if, however, the contrary were the case, and you showed it to be so, I should be equally contented as if it were otherwise, since it is my wish that truth appear in her genuine character, upon the present, as upon all other occasions.
I am, sir, with due respect,
Your obedient servant,
July 28, 1797.
Your letter of the 25th instant reached me yesterday.
Without attempting to analyze the precise import of your expressions in that particular, and really at a loss for your meaning when you appeal to my knowledge of a determination to which you say you should firmly adhere, I shall observe, in relation to the idea of my desiring to make the affair personal between us, that it would be no less unworthy of me to seek than to shun such an issue. It was my earnest wish to have experienced a conduct on your part such as was, in my opinion, due to me, to yourself, and to justice. Thinking, as I did, on the coolest reflection, that this had not been the case, I did not hesitate to convey to you the impressions which I entertained, prepared for any consequences to which it might lead.
Nevertheless, it would have been agreeable to me to have found in your last letter sufficient cause for relinquishing those impressions. But I cannot say that I do. The idea is every way inadmissible, that Clingman's last miserable contrivance should have had weight to shake, though not absolutely change, the opinion which my explanation had produced; and that, having such an effect, it should have been recorded and preserved in secret, without the slightest intimation to me. There was a vast difference between what might have been proper before and after my explanation; though I am not disposed to admit that the attention which was paid to such characters, even before, would have been justifiable, had it not been for the notes in my handwriting.
But the subject is too disgusting to leave me any inclination to prolong this discussion of it. The public explanation to which I am driven must decide, as far as public opinion is concerned, between us. Painful as the appeal will be in one respect, I know that in the principal point it must completely answer my purpose.
I am, sir,
Your humble servant,
July 31, 1797.
Your letter of the 28th, which I have received, claims a short answer.
I have stated to you that I have no wish to do you a personal injury. The several explanations which I have made accorded with truth and my ideas of propriety. Therefore I need not repeat them. If these do not yield you satisfaction, I can give you no other, unless called on in a way which, for the illustration of truth, I wish to avoid, but which I am ever ready to meet. This is what I meant by that part of my letter which you say you do not understand.
With due respect, I am, sir,
Your humble servant,