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to elias boudinot - 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.
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to elias boudinot
September (?) 1778.2
You know the feuds and discontents which have attended the departure of the French fleet from Rhode Island. You are probably not uninformed of the imprudence of General Sullivan on the occasion, particularly in the orders he issued charging our allies with refusing to assist us. This procedure was the summit of folly, and has made a very deep impression upon the minds of the Frenchmen in general, who naturally consider it as an unjust and ungenerous reflection on their nation. The stigmatizing an ally in public orders, and one with whom we meant to continue in amity, was certainly a piece of absurdity without parallel. The Frenchmen expect the State will reprobate the conduct of their general, and by that means make atonement for the stain he has attempted to bring upon French honor. Something of this kind seems necessary, and will in all likelihood be expected by the Court of France, but the manner of doing it suggests a question of great delicacy and difficulty, which I find myself unable to solve. The temper with which General Sullivan was actuated was too analogous to that which appeared in the generality of those concerned with him in the expedition, and to the sentiments prevailing among the people. Though men of discretion will feel the impropriety of his conduct, yet there are too many who will be ready to make a common cause with him against any attempt of the public authority to convince him of his presumption, unless the business is managed with great address and circumspection. The credit universally given him for a happy and well-conducted retreat, will strengthen the sentiments in his favor, and give an air of cruelty to any species of disgrace which might be thrown upon a man, who will be thought rather to deserve the esteem and applause of his country. To know how to strike the proper string will require more skill than I am master of; but I would offer this general hint, that there should be a proper mixture of the sweet and bitter in the potion which may be administered. I am sure it will give you pleasure to have heard that our friend Greene did ample justice to himself on this expedition; and that Laurens1 was as conspicuous as usual. But while we celebrate our friends and countrymen, we should not be forgetful of those meritorious strangers who are sharing the toils and dangers of America. Without derogating from the merit of the other French gentlemen who distinguished themselves, Mr. Toussard 2 may be justly allowed a pre-eminent place. In the enthusiasm of heroic valor, he attempted, single and unseconded, to possess himself of one of the enemy’s field-pieces, which he saw weakly defended. He did not effect it, and the loss of his arm was the price of his bravery—his horse was shot under him at the same time; but we should not the less admire the boldness of the exploit from a failure in the success. This gentleman has now, in another and more signal instance, justified the good opinion I have long entertained of him, and merited by a fresh testimony of his zeal, as well as a new stroke of misfortune, the consideration of Congress. The splendid action he has now performed, and for which he has paid so dear should neither be concealed from the public eye, nor the public patronage. You are at liberty to commit this part of my letter to the press.1
Nov. 8, 1778.
I have received your favor of the 4th, and shall with pleasure communicate the intelligence we have had at headquarters. On the morning of the 3d one hundred and eight sail of vessels sailed out of the Hook,—supposed, from the best calculations, to contain seven or eight thousand men. They first steered to the eastward, but soon after changed their course and bore S. E. with the wind at N. W. The general accounts from New York speak of three distinct embarkations: one for the West Indies, another for Halifax, another for St. Augustine. One division, which seems to be best ascertained, contains ten or twelve British regiments and most of the new levies, which probably went in the above-mentioned fleet.
This much is pretty certain, that the embarkation has continued since the departure of that fleet, which is a strong circumstance in favor of a general evacuation. All their vessels the least out of repair are drawn up to the different ship-yards, and their repairs are going on with all possible vigor. Whether the merchants are packing up or not, is a point still much in dubio; though we have several accounts that look like it, but they are not so precise and certain as could be wished. Several bales of goods have been seen on the wharves, marked for particular ships. A deserter, indeed, lately from the city, insists that he saw Coffin and Anderson packing up. This, if true, would be decisive, for this is a very considerable house particularly attached to the army. One of our spies, a trusty one too, writes, the 31st of October, that the principal part of the sick from the hospitals had embarked, but this stands almost wholly upon its own bottom. The capture of Jamaica seems to be a mere rumor. There are several others respecting St. Kitts, Montserrat, and Grenada. The two former are said to have been taken by surprise on a temporary absence of their guard-ships, but these stories were not improbably suggested by a late sudden and very considerable rise in the prices of rum and molasses. The former being as high as fourteen or fifteen shillings per gallon. Large purchases have been made of these articles as sea stores for the troops, and the speculators in the city have been bidding against the commissaries, which better accounts for the increased prices.
It is a question very undecided in my mind whether the enemy will evacuate or not. Reasoning a priori, the arguments seem to be strongest for it—from the exhausted state of the British resources, the naked condition of their dominions everywhere, and the possibility of a Spanish war. But, on the other hand, naval superiority must do a great deal in the business. This I think, considering all things, appears clearly enough to be on the side of Britain. The sluggishness of Spain affords room to doubt her taking a decisive part. The preserving posts in these States will greatly distress our trade and give security to the British West India trade. They will also cover the West Indies, and restrain any operations of ours against the British dominions on the continent. These considerations, and the depreciated state of our currency, will be strong inducements to keep New York and Rhode Island, if not with a view to conquest, with a view to temporary advantages, and making better terms in a future negotiation.
From appearances, the great delay which attends the embarkation, the absolute tranquillity of the post at Rhode Island, where there is no kind of preparation for leaving it, and some other circumstances, seem to indicate an intention to remain. On the other hand, besides the general appearances I have already mentioned, their inattention to the petition of the refugees, and the not raising new works, are strong additional reasons for going away. I think it most probable, if they were determined to continue a garrison, that they would give most explicit assurance to their friends, in order to encourage their proposal and engage them to aid in maintaining it. I think, also, they would contract their work, to be better proportioned to the number of the garrison, and of course more defensible, by throwing a chain of fortifications across the narrow part of the island.
Nothing has yet been decided that we know of with respect to the sentences you mention. General Lee’s case,1 by our last advices, was on the eve of a final decision. It seems he has made a strong party in Congress, and is very confident of having the sentence annulled. St. Clair’s trial2 was ordered to be printed for the separate consideration of the members.
The depreciation of our currency really casts a gloom on our prospects, but my sentiments on the subject are rather peculiar. I think, bad as it is, it will continue to draw out the resources of the country a good while longer, and especially if the enemy make such detachments, of which there is hardly a doubt, as will oblige them to act on the defensive. This will make our public expenditures infinitely less, and will allow the States leisure to attend to the arrangements of their finances, as well as the country tranquillity to cultivate its resources.
Any letters that may come to headquarters for you will be carefully forwarded.
The French left New York for Newport at the end of July, and the battle of Quaker Hill was fought on August 29th.
John Laurens, Hamilton’s friend and his comrade on Washington’s staff.
Colonel Louis Toussard was one of the officers who came out in 1777, recommended by Silas Deane. For his gallantry in this action he was brevetted a Lieutenant-Colonel and received a pension from Congress. He afterwards served his own government in the West Indies, and in 1794 returned to this country. He was an officer in our army from 1795 to 1802, and afterwards French Consul at New Orleans, 1812–1815.
Reprinted from Hamilton’s History of the Republic, i., 494.
General Charles Lee was tried by court-martial, for his conduct at the battle at Monmouth, as already described.
Major-General Arthur St. Clair, of our army. He was tried by court-martial in September, 1778, for the evacuation of Ticonderoga, July 4, 1777, and honorably acquitted.