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1804 - to rufus king - Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 10 
The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 10.
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to rufus king
You will have heard before this reaches you of the fluctuations and changes which have taken place in the measures of the reigning party, as to a candidate for governor; and you will probably have also been informed that, pursuant to the opinions professed by our friends, before I left New York I had taken an active part in favor of Mr. Lansing.
It is a fact to be regretted, though anticipated, that the Federalists very extensively had embarked with zeal in the support of Mr. Burr; yet an impression to the contrary, and in favor of Mr. Lansing, had been made, and there was good ground to hope that a proper direction in the main might have been given to the current of Federalism. The substitution of Mr. Lewis has essentially varied the prospect, and the best informed among us here agree that the Federalists, as a body, could not be diverted from Mr. Burr to Mr. Lewis, by any efforts of leading characters, if they should even deem the support of the latter expedient.
Though I have no reason to think that my original calculation was wrong, while the competition was between Clinton and Burr, yet from the moment the former declined, I began to consider the latter as having a chance of success. It was still, however, my reliance that Lansing would outrun him; but now that Chief-Justice Lewis is the competitor, the probability in my judgment inclines to Mr. Burr.
Thus situated, two questions have arisen; first, whether a federal candidate ought not to be run, as a means of defeating Mr. Burr, and of keeping the Federalists from becoming a personal faction allied to him. Second, whether, in the conflict of parties as they now stand, the strongest of them disconcerted and disjointed, there would not be a considerable hope of success for a federal candidate.
These questions have received no solution in scarcely any one’s mind; but it is agreed that, if an attempt is to be made, you must be the candidate. There is no other man among us under whose standard either fragment of the democratic party could as easily rally. It is enough to say, you have been absent during the time in which party animosities have become matured and fixed, and, therefore, are much less than any other distinguished Federalist, an object of them.
To detach the Federalists from Burr, they must believe two things: one, that we are in earnest as to our candidate, and that it is not a mere diversion; the other, that there is some chance of success. All believe, and some leading candidates admit, that if either of the two democratic rival parties should come to expect a defeat, they will range themselves under your banner.
Reflect well on all these things, and make up your mind in case you should be invited to consent. I have not time to enlarge.
to governor george clinton
Feb. 27, 1804.
It is now a long time since a very odious slander1 has been in circulation to the prejudice of my character.
It has come to my ears in more than one way, but always, till lately, without the disclosure of any source to which I could resort for explanation or detection. Within a few days, Mr. Kane, of this city, related to me a story as coming from Judge Purdy, in substance very similar to the calumny to which I have alluded. The amount of his information, and the result of an interview with Judge Purdy, are contained in the enclosed paper.1 You will observe, sir, that your name is implicated in the transaction. With what warrant, it would be improper for me to prejudge. But the very mention of your name adds importance to the affair, and increases the motives to investigation.
The charge, even in the mitigated form to which it is reduced by Judge Purdy’s admission, is of a nature too derogatory to permit me to pass it lightly over. It is essential that its origin and progress should be traced as fully as may be practicable, in order to the thorough exposure of its falsehood and malignity.
The assertions of Judge Purdy authorize me to appeal to you for a frank and candid explanation of so much of the matter as relates to yourself. This explanation I request as speedily as may be.
to governor george clinton
March 2, 1804.
If our correspondence does not terminate with your letter of the 29th February, received yesterday, I wish it to be understood that it proceeds merely from the desire of removing all ambiguity from a transaction in which my character may be materially interested.
It is perhaps the natural inference from what you have stated, that nothing took place on your part to sanction or corroborate the story related to you by Judge Purdy, in reference to any agency or co-operation of mine in the supposed project. Yet some of the circumstances are such, that a different inference might possibly be drawn.
I therefore trust that you will be sensible of the propriety of dissipating all obscurity on this point.
If the letter, which you mention to have been put in your hands by General Malcolm, was not withdrawn by him, or if any copy was retained by you, it would be satisfactory to me to have an inspection of the one or the other, with leave to take a copy, in order that I may have an additional clue to the source of a story, which I verily believe originated entirely in a fabrication.
to governor george clinton
March 7, 1804.
On Saturday last I sent you a letter, of which the foregoing is a copy, to which, as yet, I have received no reply.
Intending to leave this place for New York on Saturday next, it is important that I should receive an answer before that day.
to governor george clinton
March 9, 1804.
I had the honor of receiving yesterday your Excellency’s letter of the 6th instant. It is agreeable to me to find in it a confirmation of the inference that you had given no countenance to the supposition of my agency or co-operation in the project to which the story of Judge Purdy relates; and it only remains for me to regret that it is not in your power to furnish the additional clue, of which I was desirous, to aid me in tracing the fabrication to its source.
I shall not only rely on the assurance which you give as to the future communication of the copy of the letter in question, should it hereafter come to your hands, but I will take the liberty to add a request, that you will be pleased to make known to me any other circumstances, if any should reach you, which may serve to throw light upon the affair. I feel an anxiety that it should be thoroughly sifted, not merely on my own account, but from a conviction that the pretended existence of such a project, long travelling about in whispers, has had no inconsiderable influence in exciting false alarms, and unjust suspicions to the prejudice of a number of individuals, every way worthy of public confidence, who have always faithfully supported the existing institutions of the country, and who would disdain to be concerned in an intrigue with any foreign power, or its agents, either for introducing monarchy, or for promoting or upholding any other scheme of government within the United States.
March 25, 1804.
Presuming on the acquaintance, from which I derived so much pleasure during your stay in this country, I am going to take a very great liberty. It concerns a near relation of mine, Mr. Alexander Hamilton, now a prisoner of war on parole at Paris.
His brother, from whom I have just received a letter, informs me that, being on a visit to the continent as a traveller, he was overtaken by the war between France and Great Britain, and has been since that time in the situation which I have mentioned. He is a Scotch gentleman of education and literary acquirements, who, having amassed a pretty handsome fortune in the East Indies, had returned to his own country to devote himself to the pursuits of knowledge, and was induced to pass over to the continent to indulge his curiosity, with a particular eye to the very interesting monuments of the arts, of which Paris is now the depository.
I will ask nothing specific for him, because I know not what could with propriety be done, contenting myself with merely saying, that if your interposition can procure for him any facility, indulgence, or favor, it will confer a personal obligation on one who has the honor to remain, etc.
April 12, 1804.
The post of to-day brought me a letter from you, and another from Mr. ——. I have no doubt but the latter would serve you if he could; but he cannot at this time.
On the whole, I would advise you to return to New York, and accept any respectable employment in your way, till an opportunity of something better shall occur. ’T is by practice and perseverance that we can expect to vanquish difficulties, and better an unpleasant condition.
Arraign not the dispensations of Providence, they must be founded in wisdom and goodness; and when they do not suit us, it must be because there is some fault in ourselves which deserves chastisement; or because there is a kind intent, to correct in us some vice or failing, of which, perhaps, we may not be conscious; or because the general plan requires that we should suffer partial ill.
In this situation it is our duty to cultivate resignation, and even humility, bearing in mind, in the language of the poet, “that it was pride which lost the blest abodes.”1
to philip j. schuyler1
April 20, 1804.
My Dear Sir:
I did not write to you on the subject of the awards, because I was in correspondence with Mr. Jacob Van Rensselaer respecting the matter.
He has sent me the draughts of deeds which I shall in a few days inspect, and return with such suggestions as may be requisite.
The things most urgent are—1. The completion of the survey, which Mr. R. writes me is in train.—2. The appointment of a guardian for Mr. Kane’s daughter at Schenectady. On both objects, I have written particularly to Mr. J. Van Rensselaer.
I say nothing on politics, with the course of which I am too much disgusted to give myself any future concern about them.2
to james a. hamilton
My Dear James:
I have prepared for you a Thesis on Discretion. You may need it. God bless you.
Your affectionate father.3
to theodore sedgwick
July 10, 1804.
My Dear Sir:
I have received two letters from you since we last saw each other, that of the latest date being the 24th of May. I have had on hand for some time a long letter to you, explaining my view of the course and tendency of our politics, and my intentions as to my own future conduct. But my plan embraced so large a range that, owing to much avocation, some indifferent health, and a growing distaste to politics, the letter is still considerably short of being finished. I write this now to satisfy you that want of regard for you has not been the cause of my silence.
I will here express but one sentiment, which is, that dismemberment of our empire will be a clear sacrifice of great positive advantages without any counterbalancing good, administering no relief to our real disease, which is democracy, the poison of which, by a subdivision, will only be the more concentrated in each part, and consequently the more virulent. King is on his way for Boston, where you may chance to see him, and hear from himself his sentiments. God bless you.1
[This letter and the next were omitted by an oversight, and are therefore given here.]
to general john sullivan
His Excellency has received your two last favors to-day. In the first you hint the want of a reinforcement, but as the intention of your body is chiefly for observation and skirmishing, and not to make any serious stands, it is the less necessary it should be powerful in numbers. It will, however, depend upon circumstances how far it will be expedient to reinforce; and as soon as anything can be determined from them, you shall have whatever addition of strength you may stand in need of.
The information contained in your last, of the enemy’s being encamped on the road leading from New Brunswick to Princeton, about the Third Mile Run, is not well founded. We have had parties and officers, reconnoitring as far as the Mile Run, and there is no sign of an encampment. They seem to be taking their old position with their right at Amboy, their left at Brunswick; but how long they will remain so it is hard to tell. His Excellency desires you will engage some trusty person at South Amboy, on whom you can depend for faithful and early intelligence of the appearance of shipping in the river, or any preparation for a movement by water, that we may be in time prepared to counteract them.
March 17, 1780.
I duly received your letter of the fourteenth, and shall not fail, in conjunction with General St. Clair, to attend to the military object of it. I am much obliged to your Excellency for the communication of your Southern advices. The enemy are still in the dark about their fleet and army gone that way, as we gather from the commissioners. They pretend to have little European news, though a vessel arrived two or three days since from England, after ten weeks’ passage. We send you some late New York papers.
The commission has been several days at an end. The enemy, as was supposed, had no idea of treating on national ground. We are now in private conversation, and so far not without hopes that the liberation of our prisoners will be effected on admissible terms. Two or three days more will probably put an end to the interview. General St. Clair and Colonel Carrington beg their respects may be presented to your Excellency.
[Correspondence relating to the duel with Burr. Reprinted from the History of the Republic, vii., 805, et seq.]
a. burr to general hamilton
June 18, 1804.
I send you for your perusal a letter signed Charles D. Cooper, which, though apparently published some time ago, has but very recently come to my knowledge. Mr. Van Ness, who does me the honor to deliver this, will point out to you that clause of the letter to which I particularly request your attention. You must perceive, sir, the necessity of a prompt, unqualified acknowledgment or denial of the use of any expressions which would warrant the assertions of Dr. Cooper.
hamilton to burr
June 20, 1804.
I have maturely reflected on the subject of your letter of the eighteenth instant, and the more I have reflected, the more I have become convinced that I could not, without manifest impropriety, make the avowal or disavowal which you seem to think necessary. The clause pointed out by Mr. Van Ness is in these terms: “I could detail to you a still more despicable opinion which General Hamilton has expressed of Mr. Burr.” To endeavor to discover the meaning of this declaration, I was obliged to seek in the antecedent part of this letter for the opinion to which it referred, as having been already disclosed. I found it in these words: “General Hamilton and Judge Kent have declared in substance that they looked upon Mr. Burr to be a dangerous man, and one who ought not to be trusted with the reins of government.”
The language of Dr. Cooper plainly implies that he considered this opinion of you, which he attributes to me, as a despicable one; but he affirms that I have expressed some other, more despicable, without, however, mentioning to whom, when, or where. ’T is evident that the phrase “still more despicable” admits of infinite shades, from very light to very dark. How am I to judge of the degree intended, or how shall I annex any precise idea to language so indefinite?
Between gentlemen, despicable and more despicable are not worth the pains of distinction; when, therefore, you do not interrogate me as to the opinion which is specifically ascribed to me, I must conclude that you view it as within the limits to which the animadversions of political opponents upon each other may justifiably extend, and consequently as not warranting the idea of it which Dr. Cooper appears to entertain. If so, what precise inference could you draw as a guide for your conduct, were I to acknowledge that I had expressed an opinion of you still more despicable than the one which is particularized? How could you be sure that even this opinion had exceeded the bounds which you yourself deem admissible between political opponents?
But I forbear further comment on the embarrassment to which the requisition you have made naturally leads. The occasion forbids a more ample illustration, though nothing could be more easy than to pursue it. Repeating, that I cannot reconcile it with propriety to make the acknowledgment you desire, I will add that I deem it inadmissible, on principle, to consent to be interrogated as to the justness of the inferences which may be drawn by others from what I may have said of a political opponent in the course of fifteen years’ competition. If there were no other objection to it, this is sufficient, that it would tend to expose my sincerity and delicacy to injurious imputation from every person who may at any time have conceived the import of my expressions differently from what I may then have intended or may afterwards recollect. I stand ready to avow or disavow, promptly and explicitly, any precise or definite opinion which I may be charged with having declared of any gentleman. More than this cannot fitly be expected from me, and especially it cannot be reasonably expected that I shall enter into an explanation upon a basis so vague as that which you have adopted. I trust, on mature reflection, you will see the matter in the same light with me. If not, I can only regret the circumstance, and must abide the consequences.
The publication of Dr. Cooper was never seen by me until after the receipt of your letter.
burr to hamilton
June 21, 1804.
Your letter of the 20th inst. has been this day received. Having considered it attentively, I regret to find in it nothing of that sincerity and delicacy which you profess to value.
Political opposition can never absolve gentlemen from the necessity of a rigid adherence to the laws of honor and the rules of decorum. I neither claim such privilege nor indulge it in others.
The common-sense of mankind affixes to the epithet adopted by Dr. Cooper, the idea of dishonor. It has been publicly applied to me under the sanction of your name. The question is not whether he has understood the meaning of the word, or has used it according to syntax and with grammatical accuracy, but whether you have authorized this application, either directly or by uttering expressions or opinions derogatory to my honor. The time “when” is in your own knowledge, but no way material to me, as the calumny has now first been disclosed, so as to become the subject of my notice, and as the effect is present and palpable. Your letter has furnished me with new reasons for requiring a definite reply.
hamilton to burr
June 22, 1804.
Your first letter, in a style too peremptory, made a demand, in my opinion, unprecedented and unwarrantable. My answer, pointing out the embarrassment, gave you an opportunity of taking a less exceptionable course. You have not chosen to do it; but by your last letter, received this day, containing expressions indecorous and improper, you have increased the difficulties to explanation intrinsically incident to the nature of your application. If by a “definite reply,” you mean the direct avowal or disavowal required in your first letter, I have no other answer to give, than that which has already been given. If you mean any thing different, admitting of greater latitude, it is requisite you should explain.
w. p. van ness1 to hamilton
June 23, 1804.
In the afternoon of yesterday, I reported to Col. Burr the result of my last interview with you and appointed the evening to receive his further instructions. Some private engagements, however, prevented me from calling on him till morning. On my return to the city, I found upon inquiry, both at your office and house, that you had returned to your residence in the country.
Lest an interview there might be less agreeable to you than elsewhere, I have taken the liberty of addressing you this note to inquire when and where it will be most convenient to you to receive a communication.
van ness to major nathaniel pendleton1
June 26, 1804.
The letter which you yesterday delivered me, and your subsequent communication, in Col. Burr’s opinion, evince no disposition on the part of General Hamilton to come to a satisfactory accommodation. The injury complained of and the reparation expected are so definitely expressed in Col. Burr’s letter of the 21st instant, that there is not perceived a necessity for further explanation on his part. The difficulty that would result from confining the inquiry to any particular times and occasions must be manifest. The denial of a specified conversation only, would leave strong implication that on other occasions improper language had been used. When and where injurious opinions and expressions have been uttered by General Hamilton must be best known to him, and of him only will Col. Burr inquire. No denial or declaration will be satisfactory, unless it be general, so as to wholly exclude the ideas that rumors derogatory to Col. Burr’s honor have originated with General Hamilton, or have been fairly inferred from any thing he has said. A definite reply to a requisition of this nature was demanded by Col. Burr’s letter of the twenty-first inst. This being refused, invites the alternative referred to in General Hamilton’s letter of the 20th. It was required by the position in which the controversy was placed by General Hamilton on Friday last, and I was immediately furnished with a communication demanding a personal interview. The necessity of this measure has not, in the opinion of Col. Burr, been diminished by the General’s last letter, or any communication which has since been received. I am consequently again instructed to deliver to you a message, as soon as it may be convenient for you to receive it. I beg, therefore, you will be so good as to inform me at what hour I can have the pleasure of seeing you.
pendleton to van ness
June 26, 1804.
I have communicated the letter which you did me the honor to write to me of this date, to General Hamilton. The expectations now disclosed on the part of Col. Burr appear to him to have greatly extended the original ground of inquiry, and instead of presenting a particular and definite case for explanation, seem to aim at nothing less than an inquisition into his most confidential conversations, as well as others, through the whole period of his acquaintance with Col. Burr. While he was prepared to meet the particular case fairly and fully, he thinks it inadmissible that he should be expected to answer at large as to every thing that he may possibly have said, in relation to the character of Col. Burr, at any time, or upon any occasion. Though he is not conscious that any charges which are in circulation to the prejudice of Col. Burr have originated with him, except one which may have been so considered, and which has long since been fully explained between Col. Burr and himself, yet he cannot consent to be questioned generally as to any rumors which may be afloat derogatory to the character of Col. Burr, without specification of the several rumors, many of them probably unknown to him. He does not, however, mean to authorize any conclusion as to the real nature of his conduct in relation to Col. Burr, by his declining so loose and vague a basis of explanation, and he disavows an unwillingness to come to a satisfactory, provided it be an honorable, accommodation.
His objection is, the very indefinite ground which Col. Burr has assumed, in which he is sorry to be able to discern nothing short of premeditated hostility. Presuming, therefore, that it will be adhered to, he has instructed me to receive the message which you have it in charge to deliver. For this purpose I shall be at home and at your accommodation to-morrow morning, from eight to ten o’clock.1
van ness to pendleton
June 27, 1804.
The letter which I had the honor to receive from you, under date of yesterday, states, among other things, that in General Hamilton’s opinion, Col. Burr has taken a very indefinite ground, in which he evinces nothing short of pre-determined hostility, and that General Hamilton thinks it inadmissible that the inquiry should extend to his confidential as well as other conversations. In this Col. Burr can only reply, that secret whispers, traducing his fame and impeaching his honor, are, at least, equally injurious with slanders publicly uttered; that General Hamilton had at no time and in no place a right to use any such injurious expressions, and the partial negative he is disposed to give, with the reservation he wishes to make, are proofs that he has done the injury specified.
Col. Burr’s request was, in the first instance, proposed in a form the most simple, in order that General Hamilton might give to the affair that course to which he might be induced by his temper and his knowledge of facts. Col. Burr trusted with confidence that, from the frankness of a soldier and the candor of a gentleman, he might expect an ingenuous declaration. That if, as he had reason to believe, General Hamilton had used expressions derogatory to his honor, he would have had the magnanimity to retract them; and that if, from his language, injurious inferences had been improperly drawn, he would have perceived the propriety of correcting errors which might thus have been widely diffused. With these impressions, Col. Burr was greatly surprised at receiving a letter which he considered as evasive, and which in manner he deemed not altogether decorous. In one expectation, however, he was not wholly deceived, for the close of General Hamilton’s letter contained an intimation that if Col. Burr should dislike his refusal to acknowledge or deny, he was ready to meet the consequences. This Col. Burr deemed a sort of defiance, and would have felt justified in making it the basis of an immediate message. But as the communication contained something concerning the indefiniteness of the request, as he believed it rather the offspring of false pride than of reflection, and as he felt the utmost reluctance to proceed to extremities while any other hope remained, his request was repeated in terms more explicit. The replies and propositions on the part of Gen. Hamilton have, in Col. Burr’s opinion, been constantly in substance the same.
Col. Burr disavows all motives of premeditated hostility, a charge by which he thinks insult added to injury. He feels as a gentleman should feel when his honor is impeached or assailed; and without sensations of hostility or wishes of revenge, he is determined to vindicate that honor at such hazard as the nature of the case demands.
The length to which this correspondence has extended, only tending to prove that the satisfactory redress, earnestly desired, cannot be obtained, be deems it useless to offer any proposition, except the simple message, which I shall now have the honor to deliver.
remarks by hamilton on the letter of june 27, 1804
Whether the observations on this letter are designed merely to justify the result which is indicated in the close of the letter, or may be intended to give an opening for rendering any thing explicit which may have been deemed vague heretofore, can only be judged of by the sequel. At any rate, it appears to me necessary not to be misunderstood. Mr. Pendleton is therefore authorized to say, that in the course of the present discussion, written or verbal, there has been no intention to evade, defy, or insult, but a sincere disposition to avoid extremities, if it could be done with propriety. With this view, Gen. Hamilton has been ready to enter into a frank and free explanation on any and every object of a specific nature, but not to answer a general and abstract inquiry embracing a period too long for any accurate recollection, and exposing him to unpleasant criticisms from, or unpleasant discussions with, any and every person who may have understood him in an unfavorable sense. This (admitting that he could answer in a manner the most satisfactory to Col. Burr) he should deem inadmissible in principle and precedent, and humiliating in practice. To this therefore he can never submit. Frequent allusion has been made to slanders said to be in circulation. Whether they are openly or in whispers, they have a form and shape and might be specified. If the alternative alluded to in the close of the letter is definitely tendered, it must be accepted; the time, place, and manner to be afterwards regulated. I should not think it right in the midst of a Circuit Court to withdraw my services from those who may have confided important interests to me and expose them to the embarrassment of seeking other counsel, who may not have time to be sufficiently instructed in their case. I shall also want a little time to make some arrangements respecting my own affairs.
statement by hamilton as to his motives in meeting burr
On my expected interview with Col. Burr, I think it proper to make some remarks explanatory of my conduct, motives, and views. I was certainly desirous of avoiding this interview for the most cogent reasons:
Lastly, I shall hazard much and can possibly gain nothing by the issue of the interview.
But it was, as I conceive, impossible for me to avoid it. There were intrinsic difficulties in the thing and artificial embarrassments, from the manner of proceeding on the part of Col. Burr.
Intrinsic, because it is not to be denied that my animadversions on the political principles, character, and views of Col. Burr have been extremely severe; and on different occasions I, in common with many others, have made very unfavorable criticisms on particular instances of the private conduct of this gentleman. In proportion as these impressions were entertained with sincerity and uttered with motives and for purposes which might appear to me commendable, would be the difficulty (until they could be removed by evidence of their being erroneous) of explanation or apology. The disavowal required of me by Col. Burr in a general and indefinite form was out of my power, if it had really been proper for me to submit to be questioned, but I was sincerely of opinion that this could not be, and in this opinion I was confirmed by that of a very moderate and judicious friend whom I consulted. Besides that, Col. Burr appeared to me to assume, in the first instance, a tone unnecessarily peremptory and menacing, and, in the second, positively offensive. Yet I wished, as far as might be practicable, to leave a door open to accommodation. This, I think, will be inferred from the written communication made by me and by my directions, and would be confirmed by the conversations between Mr. Van Ness and my self which arose out of the subject. I am not sure whether, under all the circumstances, I did not go further in the attempt to accommodate than a punctilious delicacy will justify. If so, I hope the motives I have stated will excuse me. It is not my design, by what I have said, to affix any odium on the conduct of Col. Burr in this case. He doubtless has heard of animadversions of mine which bore very hard upon him, and it is probable that as usual they were accompanied with some falsehoods. He may have supposed himself under a necessity of acting as he has done. I hope the grounds of his proceeding have been such as ought to satisfy his own conscience. I trust, at the same time, that the world will do me the justice to believe that I have not censured him on light grounds nor from unworthy inducements. I certainly have had strong reasons for what I have said, though it is possible that in some particulars I may have been influenced by misconstruction or misinformation. It is also my ardent wish that I may have been more mistaken than I think I have been; and that he, by his future conduct, may show himself worthy of all confidence and esteem and prove an ornament and a blessing to the country. As well, because it is possible that I may have injured Col. Burr, however convinced myself that my opinions and declarations have been well-founded, as from my general principles and temper in relation to similar affairs, I have resolved, if our interview is conducted in the usual manner, and it pleases God to give me the opportunity, to reserve and throw away my first fire, and I have thoughts even of reserving my second fire, and thus giving a double opportunity to Col. Burr to pause and reflect. It is not, however, my intention to enter into any explanations on the ground. Apology from principle, I hope, rather than pride, is out of the question. To those who, with me, abhorring the practice of duelling, may think that I ought on no account to have added to the number of bad examples, I answer that my relative situation, as well in public as private, enforcing all the considerations which constitute what men of the world denominate honor, imposed on me (as I thought) a peculiar necessity not to decline the call. The ability to be in future useful, whether in resisting mischief or in effecting good, in those crises of our public affairs which seem likely to happen, would probably be inseparable from a conformity with public prejudice in this particular.
to mrs. hamilton
July 10, 1804.
This letter, my dear Eliza, will not be delivered to you, unless I shall first have terminated my earthly career, to begin, as I humbly hope, from redeeming grace and divine mercy, a happy immortality. If it had been possible for me to have avoided the interview, my love for you and my precious children would have been alone a decisive motive. But it was not possible, without sacrifices which would have rendered me unworthy of your esteem. I need not tell you of the pangs I feel from the idea of quitting you, and exposing you to the anguish I know you would feel. Nor could I dwell on the topic, lest it should unman me. The consolations of religion, my beloved, can alone support you; and these you have a right to enjoy. Fly to the bosom of your God, and be comforted. With my last idea I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you in a better world. Adieu, best of wives—best of women. Embrace all my darling children for me.
to mrs. hamilton
Tuesday evening, 10 o’clock.
My Beloved Eliza:
Mrs. Mitchell1 is the persons in the world to whom, as a friend, I am under the greatest obligation. I have not hitherto done my omission to her as much as possible, I have encouraged her to come to this country, and intend, if it shall be in my power, to render the evening of her days comfortable. But if it shall please God to put this out of my power, and to enable you hereafter to be of service to her, I entreat you to do it, and to treat her with the tenderness of a sister. This is my second letter. The scruples of a Christian have determined me to expose my own life to any extent, rather than subject myself to the guilt of taking the life of another. This much increases my hazards, and redoubles my pangs for you. But you had rather I should die innocent than live guilty. Heaven can preserve me, and I humbly hope will; but, in the contrary event, I charge you to remember that you are a Christian. God’s will be done! The will of a merciful God must be good. Once more.
Adieu, my darling, darling wife.
[This interesting paper or letter, now first printed, is unaddressed and undated, but it must have been written after 1800, and perhaps not long before the writer’s death. I owe it to the kindness of the gentleman in New York, whose letter I am so unfortunate as to have lost. See page 231 of Vol. IX.]
Herewith is a general statement of my pecuniary affairs, in which there can be no material error.
The result is that calculating my property at what it stands me in, I am now worth about £10,000, and that estimating according to what my lands are now selling for and are likely to fetch, the surplus beyond my debts may fairly be stated at nearly double that sum; yet I am pained to be obliged to entertain doubts, whether, if an accident should happen to me, by which the sales of my property should come to be forced, it would even be sufficient to pay my debts. In a situation like this, it is perhaps due to my reputation to explain why I have made so considerable an establishment in the country. This explanation shall be submitted.
To men who have been so much harassed in the base world as myself, it is natural to look forward to a comfortable retirement, in the sequel of life, as a principal desideratum. This desire I have felt in the strongest manner, and to prepare for it has latterly been a favorite object. I thought I might not only expect to accomplish the object, but might reasonably aim at it and pursue the preparatory measures, from the following considerations:
It has been for some time past pretty well ascertained to my mind, that the emoluments of my profession would prove equal to the maintenance of my family and the gradual discharge of my debts, within a period to the end of which my faculties for business might be expected to extend in full energy. I think myself warranted to estimate the annual product of those emoluments at twelve thousand dollars at the least. My expenses while the first improvements of my country establishment were going on have been great, but they would this summer and fall reach the point at which, it is my intention they should stop, at least till I should be better able than at present to add to them; and after a fair examination founded upon an actual account of my expenditures, I am persuaded that a plan I have contemplated for the next and succeeding years would bring my expenses of every kind within the composes of four thousand dollars yearly, exclusive of the interest of my country establishment. To this limit I have been resolved to reduce them, even though it should be necessary to lease that establishment for a few years. In the meantime, my lands now in a course of sale and settlement would accelerate the extinguishment of my debts, and in the end leave me a handsome clear property. It was also allowable for me to take into view collaterally the expectations of my wife: which have been of late party realized. She is now entitled to a property of between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds (as I compute), by descent from her mother, and her father is understood to possess a large estate. I feel all the delicacy of this allusion, but the occasion, I trust, will plead my excuses, and that venerable father, I am sure, will pardon. He knows well all the nicety of my past conduct.
Viewing the matter in these different aspects, I trust the opinion of candid men will be that there has been no impropriety in my conduct, especially when it is taken into the calculation, that my country establishment, though costly, promises, by the progressive rise of property on this island and the felicity of its situation, to become more and more valuable. My chief apology is to those friends who have from mere kindness endorsed my paper discounted at the banks. On mature reflection I have thought it justifiable to secure them in preference to other creditors, lest perchance there should be a deficit. Yet, while this may save them from eventual loss, it will not exempt them from present inconvenience. As to this I can only throw myself upon their kindness and entreat the indulgence of the banks for them. Perhaps the request may be supposed entitled to some regard. In the event which would bring this paper to the public eye, one thing at least would be put beyond doubt. This is that my public labors have amounted to an absolute sacrifice of the interests of my family, and that in all pecuniary concerns the delicacy no less than the probity of conduct in public stations has been such as to defy even the shadow of a question.
Indeed, I have not enjoyed the ordinary advantages incident to my military services. Being a member of Congress while the question of the commutation of the half pay of the army for a sum in gross was in debate, delicacy and a desire to be useful to the army by removing the idea of my having an interest in the question, induced me to write to the Secretary of War and relinquish my claim to half pay, which or the equivalent I have never received. Neither have I even applied for the lands allowed by the United States to officers of my rank. Nor did I ever obtain from this State the allowance of lands made to officers of similar rank. It is true that having served through the latter periods of the war on the general staff of the United States and not in the line of this State, I could not claim the allowance as a matter of course; but having before the war resided in this State, and having entered the military career at the head of a company of artillery raised for the particular defence of this State, I had better pretensions to the allowance than others to whom it was actually made, yet it has not been extended to me.
rules for mr. philip hamilton
From the first of April to the first of October he is to rise not later than six o’clock; the rest of the year not later than seven. If earlier, he will deserve commendation. Ten will be his hour of going to bed throughout the year.
From the time he is dressed in the morning till nine o’clock (the time for breakfast excepted), he is to read law. At nine he goes to the office, and continues there till dinner time. He will be occupied partly in writing and partly in reading law.
After dinner he reads law at home till five o’clock. From this time till seven he disposes of his time as he pleases. From seven to ten he reads and studies whatever he pleases.
From twelve on Saturday he is at liberty to amuse himself.
On Sunday he will attend the morning church. The rest of the day may be applied to innocent recreations.
He must not depart from any of these rules without my permission.
last will and testament of alexander hamilton
In the name of God, Amen!
I, Alexander Hamilton, of the State of New York, counsellor at law, do make this my last will and testament, as follows: First, I appoint John B. Church, Nicholas Fish, and Nathaniel Pendleton, of the city aforesaid, esquires, to be executors and trustees of this my will, and I devise to them, their heirs and assigns, as joint tenants, and not as tenants in common, all my estate, real and personal, whatsoever and wheresoever upon trust, at their discretion to sell and dispose of the same at such time and times, in such manner, and upon such terms as they the survivors and survivor shall think fit, and out of the proceeds to pay all the debts which I shall owe at the time of my decease, in whole, if the fund shall be sufficient, proportionally, if it shall be insufficient, and the residue, if any there shall be, to pay and deliver to my excellent and dear wife, Elizabeth Hamilton.
Though, if it please God to spare my life, I may look for a considerable surplus out of my present property; yet if he should speedily call me to the eternal world, a forced sale, as is usual, may possibly render it insufficient to satisfy my debts. I pray God that something may remain for the maintenance and education of my dear wife and children. But should it on the contrary happen that there is not enough for the payment of my debts, I entreat my dear children, if they or any of them shall ever be able, to make up the deficiency. I without hesitation commit to their delicacy a wish which is dictated by my own. Though conscious that I have too far sacrificed the interests of my family to public avocations, and on this account have the less claim to burthen my children, yet I trust in their magnanimity to appreciate, as they ought, this my request. In so unfavorable an event of things, the support of their dear mother, with the most respectful and tender attention, is a duty all the sacredness of which they will feel. Probably her own patrimonial resources will preserve her from indigence. But in all situations they are charged to bear in mind that she has been to them the most devoted and best of mothers. In testimony whereof, I have hereunto subscribed my hand, the ninth day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and four.
Signed, sealed, published, and as and for his last will and testament in our presence, who have subscribed our names in his presence.
Dominick T. Blake.
Inez B. Valleau.
epitaph on a tablet, by the society of the cincinnati, in trinity church, new york
This Tablet does not profess to perpetuate the memory of a man, to whom the age has produced no superior; nor to emblazon worth, eminently conspicuous in every feature of his country’s greatness; nor to anticipate posterity in their judgment of the loss which she has sustained by his premature death; but to attest, in the simplicity of grief, the veneration and anguish which fill the hearts of the members of the New York State Society of Cincinnati on every recollection of their illustrious brother, Major-General Alexander Hamilton.
To the effect that he was the author of a letter proposing a monarchical government, in 1788, with Prince Frederick, Duke of York, and titular Bishop of Osnaburg, as king. Clinton finally disclaimed all belief in the accusation.
The following letter is the paper referred to. It is taken from the Clinton papers, and I owe it to the kindness of Mr. Henry A. Homes, State Librarian of New York:
Now first printed from the Hamilton papers in the State Department.
This letter, now first printed, I owe to the kindness of Mr. Henry A. Homes, State Librarian at Albany.
Reprinted from the Reminiscences of James A. Hamilton, p. 40.
The day after this letter was written Hamilton was killed by Burr.
Burr’s second in the duel.
Pendleton was Hamilton’s second in the duel.
Note from the History of the Republic, vii., 812.—’T is not unworthy of notice, that on the very day of this communication, Hamilton, who had been consulted by a poor, illiterate man, in the humblest walk of life, wrote this note: “DEAR SIR: I should like to see you on the subject of a poor fellow, Peter Drinker, who says he has been employed by you, and appears unfortunate, which is his title to my attention. Yours truly, A. H. June 26, 1804. P. G. Stuyvesant, Esq.” This much-respected gentleman relates: “I reproved the man for the freedom in which he had indulged, and undertook to convince him of the impropriety of troubling General Hamilton with his concerns.” His reply was: “Oh, no, sir, he treated me very kindly.”
The sister of Mr. Peter Lytton and of Hamilton’s mother, according to the statements in J.C. Hamilton’s unfinished life of his father.