Front Page Titles (by Subject) to dr. hugh knox 1 - The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 9
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
to dr. hugh knox 1 - Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 9 
The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 9.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
to dr. hugh knox1
* * * This event (the evacuation of Ticonderoga2 redounds very little to our credit. For if the post was untenable, or required a larger number of troops to defend it than could be spared for the purpose, it ought long ago to have been foreseen and given up. Instead of that, we have kept a large quantity of cannon in it, and have been heaping up very valuable magazines of stores and provisions that, in the critical moment of defence, are abandoned and lost. This affair will be attended with several evil consequences; for besides the loss of our stores, which we cannot well afford, it opens a new and easy door by which to penetrate the northern States. It will fix the hitherto fluctuating disposition of the Indians in that quarter in their favor, and expose the frontiers of the adjacent country to their depredations. But though it is a misfortune we have reason to lament, I dare say it will be regarded with you as much more important than it really is, and as materially endangering the success of our cause, which is by no means the case. Our opposition is at this time too well matured and has too great stability to be shaken by an accident of that kind. While we have a respectable army in the field, and resources to feed, clothe, and arm them, we are safe. We have had a force sufficient for the foregoing part of the campaign to maintain such a superiority over the main army of the enemy as effectually to hinder them from attaining any of their purposes. And, to the northward, with the reinforcements sent up to succor the retreating garrison of Ticonderoga and the militia flocking in from New England, I think there is little doubt we have by this time a force adequate to give Mr. Burgoyne a seasonable check. One good effect will result from the misfortune, which is, that it will stimulate the eastern States to greater exertions than they might otherwise make.
By our last advices the enemy were in possession of all the country between Ticonderoga and Fort George; and our army, nearly equal in number to them, were about to take post somewhere between Fort Edward and Saratoga.
The consequences of this northern affair will depend much upon the part that Howe acts. If he were to co-operate with Burgoyne it would demand our utmost efforts to counteract them. But if he should go towards the southward, all or most of the advantages of Burgoyne’s success will be lost. He will either be obliged to content himself with the possession of Ticonderoga and the dependent fortresses, and with carrying on a partisan war the rest of the campaign, or he must precipitate himself into certain ruin by attempting to advance into the country with a very incompetent force.
Appearances lead us to suppose that Howe is fool enough to meditate a southern expedition; for he has now altered his station at Staten Island, mentioned above, and has fallen down to the Hook. Judging it morally certain that there would be a co-operation of the two armies, we thought it expedient to march northerly; and had accordingly reached within fourteen miles of New Windsor, the place where we could cross the North River without danger or interruption. But this new movement of the enemy’s fleet, has induced us to return a few miles, and make a disposition for marching southerly. We shall, however, be cautious how we proceed on that course, lest nothing more than a feint is intended, to divert us from the real object.
If they go to the southward in earnest, they must have the capture of Philadelphia in view; for there is no other inducement. We shall endeavor to get there in time to oppose them; and shall have the principal part of the Continental force, and a large body of spirited militia, many of them, from their services during the last campaign, pretty well inured to arms, to make the opposition with. Yet I would not have you to be much surprised if Philadelphia should fall; for the enemy will doubtless go there with a determination to succeed at all hazard; and we shall not be able to prevent them, without risking a general action, the expediency of which will depend upon circumstances. If the militia turn out with that zeal we have a right to expect, from their conduct when the enemy made their last experiment in the Jerseys, and were supposed to be going to Philadelphia, we may do it without much inconvenience. If they fall materially short of it, we shall be obliged to confine ourselves to a skirmishing opposition, which we cannot expect will be effectual. It may be asked, If, to avoid a general engagement, we give up objects of the first importance, what is to hinder the enemy from carrying every important point, and ruining us? My answer is, that our hopes are not placed in any particular city or spot of ground, but in the preserving a good army, furnished with proper necessaries, to take advantage of favorable opportunities, and waste and defeat the enemy by piecemeal. Every new post they take, requires a new division of their forces, and enables us to strike with our united force against a part of theirs: and such is their present situation, that another Trenton affair will amount to a complete victory on our part; for they are at too low an ebb to bear another stroke of the kind. Perhaps, before I may have an opportunity of sending this, facts will unfold what I am now endeavoring to anticipate by conjecture.
You will expect some animadversions on the temper and views of the French nation. I presume you are nearly as well acquainted with the assistance they are giving us as I am, both by their intrigues in foreign courts, and by supplies of every kind of warlike stores and apparatus.
It does not admit of a doubt that they are interested to wish us success; and their conduct plainly shows, they are willing to give us every aid essential to our preservation. But it is natural they should desire to do it with as much convenience to themselves as they can. I apprehend they are not overfond of plunging themselves into a war with England if they can avoid it, and still answer the end they have to pursue: and, indeed, from the evident reluctance shown on the part of the latter, to do any thing that may bring about such an event, it becomes extremely difficult to draw her into it. The conclusion we may make, is, that France will not wish to force England into a war, unless she finds our affairs require it absolutely; and England will not enter into one, till she is compelled to do it.
My best respects to all friends; and I beg you will believe me to be, with unabated regard, etc.
Dr. Hugh Knox, a worthy minister in the West Indies, who had advised and helped Hamilton in his boyhood, and always remained his warm admirer.
July 5, 1777.