Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIII (1794-1798)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIII (1794-1798) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XIII (1794-1798).
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 ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Philadelphia, 15 May, 1796.
My dear Sir,
On this day week I wrote you a letter on the subject of the information received from G[ouverneur] M[orris],1 and put with it some other papers respecting the case of M. de La Fayette, under cover to Mr. Jay, to whom also I had occasion to write. But in my hurry (making up the despatches for the post-office next morning) I forgot to give it a superscription; of course it had to return from New York for one, and to encounter all the delay occasioned thereby before it could reach your hands.
Since then I have been favored with your letter of the 10th inst.,2 and inclose (in its rough state) the paper mentioned therein, with some alteration in the first page (since you saw it) relative to the reference at foot. Having no copy by me, except of the quoted part, nor of the notes from which it was drawn, I beg leave to recommend the draught now sent to your particular attention.
Even if you should think it best to throw the whole into a different form, let me request, notwithstanding, that my draught may be returned to me (along with yours) with such amendments and corrections as to render it as perfect as the formation is susceptible of; curtailed if too verbose; and relieved of all tautology not necessary to enforce the ideas in the original or quoted part. My wish is that the whole may appear in a plain style, and be handed to the public in an honest, unaffected, simple part.
It will be perceived, from hence, that I am attached to the quotation. My reasons for it are, that as it is not only a fact that such an address was written, and on the point of being published, but known also to one or two of those characters, who are now strongest and foremost in the opposition to the government, and consequently to the person administering of it contrary to their views, the promulgation thereof, as an evidence that it was much against my inclination that I continued in office, will cause it more readily to be believed, that I could have no view in extending the powers of the Executive beyond the limits prescribed by the Constitution; and will serve to lessen, in the public estimation, the pretensions of that party to the patriotic zeal and watchfulness, on which they endeavor to build their own consequence, at the expense of others who have differed from them in sentiment. And besides, it may contribute to blunt, if it does not turn aside, some of the shafts which, it may be presumed, will be aimed at my annunciation of this event; among which, conviction of fallen popularity, and despair of being re-elected, will be levelled at me with dexterity and keenness.
Having struck out the reference to a particular character in the first page of the address, I have less (if any) objection to expunging those words which are contained within parentheses, in pages 5, 7, and 8, in the quoted part, and those in the eighteenth page of what follows; nor to discarding the egotisms (however just they may be), if you think them liable to fair criticism, and that they had better be omitted, notwithstanding some of them relate facts which are but little known to the community.
My object has been, and must continue to be, to avoid personalities; allusions to particular measures, which may appear pointed, and to expressions which could not fail to draw upon me attacks which I should wish to avoid, and might not find agreeable to repel.
As there will be another session of Congress before the political existence of the present House of Representatives, or my own, will expire, it was not my design to say a word to the Legislature on this subject; but to withhold the promulgation of my intention, until the period when it shall become indispensably necessary for the information of the Electors (which this year will be delayed until the 7th of December). This makes it a little difficult and uncertain what to say, so long beforehand, on the part marked with a pencil, in the last paragraph of the second page.
All these ideas and observations are confined, as you will readily perceive, to my draught of the Valedictory Address. If you form one anew, it will, of course, assume such a shape as you may be disposed to give it, predicated upon the sentiments contained in the inclosed paper.
With respect to the gentleman1 you have mentioned as successor to Mr. P[inckney], there can be no doubt of his abilities, nor, in my mind, is there any of his fitness; but you know, as well as I, what has been said of his political sentiments, with respect to another form of government; and from thence can be at no loss to guess at the interpretation which would be given to the nomination of him. However, the subject shall have due consideration; but a previous resignation would, in my opinion, carry with it too much the appearance of concert, and would have a bad, rather than a good effect. Always and sincerely, I am yours, &c.2
Friends and Fellow-Citizens:
The quotation in this Address was composed, and intended to have been published, in the year 1792, in time to have announced to the Electors of the President and Vice-President of the United States, the determination of the former, previous to the said election to that office could have been made; but the solicitude of my confidential friends * * *2 added to the peculiar situation of our foreign affairs at that epoch, induced me to suspend the promulgation, lest, among other reasons, my retirement might be ascribed to political cowardice. In place thereof, I resolved, if it should be the pleasure of my fellow-citizens to honor me again with their suffrages, to devote such services as I could render, a year or two longer, trusting that within that period all impediments to an honorable retreat would be removed.
In this hope, as fondly entertained as it was conceived, I entered upon the execution of the duties of my second administration. But if the causes which produced this postponement had any weight in them at that period, it will readily be acknowledged that there has been no diminution in them since, until very lately, and it will serve to account for the delay which has taken place in communicating the sentiments which were then committed to writing, and are now found in the following words:—
The period which will close the appointment with which my fellow-citizens have honored me being not very distant, and the time actually arrived at which their thoughts must be designating the citizen who is to administer the Executive Government of the U. S. during the ensuing term, it may be requisite to a more distinct expression of the public voice that I should apprize such of my fellow-citizens as may retain their partiality towards me, that I am not to be numbered among those of whom a choice is to be made.
I beg them to be assured that the resolution which dictates this intimation has not been taken without the strictest regard to the relation which, as a dutiful citizen, I bear to my country; and that in withdrawing that tender of my service which silence in my situation might imply, I am not influenced by the smallest deficiency of zeal for its future interests, or of grateful respect for its past kindness, but by the fullest persuasion that such a step is compatible with both.
HAMILTON’S ABSTRACT OF POINTS, 1796.
I. The period of a new election approaching, it is his duty to announce his intention to decline.
II. He had hoped that long ere this it would have been in his power, and particularly had nearly come to a final resolution in the year 1792 to do it, but the peculiar situation of affairs, and the advice of confidential friends, dissuaded.
III. In acquiescing in a further election he still hoped a year or two longer would have enabled him to withdraw, but a continuance of causes has delayed till now, when the position of our country, abroad and at home, justify him in pursuing his inclination.
IV. In doing it he has not been unmindful of his relation as a dutiful citizen to his country, nor is now influenced by the smallest diminution of zeal for its interest or gratitude for its past kindness, but by a belief that the step is compatible with both.
The impressions under which I entered on the present arduous trust were explained on the proper occasion. In discharge of this trust, I can only say that I have contributed towards the organization and administration of the Government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. For any errors which may have flowed from this source, I feel all the regret which an anxiety for the public good can excite; not without the double consolation, however, arising from a consciousness of their being involuntary, and an experience of the candor which will interpret them. If there were any circumstances which could give value to my inferior qualifications for the trust, these circumstances must have been temporary. In this light was the undertaking viewed when I ventured upon it. Being, moreover, still further advanced into the decline of life, I am every day more sensible that the increasing weight of years renders the private walks of it in the shade of retirement as necessary as they will be acceptable to me.
V. The impressions under which he first accepted were explained on the proper occasion.
VI. In the execution of it, he has contributed the best exertions of a very fallible judgment—anticipated his insufficiency—experienced his disqualifications for the difficult trust, and every day a stronger sentiment from that cause to yield the place—advance into the decline of life—every day more sensible of weight of years, of the necessity of repose, of the duty to seek retirement, etc. Add,
May I be allowed to add that it will be among the highest, as well as the purest enjoyments that can sweeten the remnant of my days, to partake in a private station, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, of that benign influence of good laws under a free Government which has been the ultimate object of all our wishes, and in which I confide as the happy reward of our cares and labors!
VII. It will be among the purest enjoyments which can sweeten the remnant of his days, to partake in a private station, in the midst of his fellow-citizens, the laws of a free government, the ultimate object of his cares and wishes.
May I be allowed further to add, as a consideration far more important, that an early example of rotation in an office of so high and delicate a nature may equally accord with the republican spirit of our Constitution, and the ideas of liberty and safety entertained by the people.
[Here followed a paragraph of Madison that Washington omitted.]
VIII. As to rotation.
In contemplating the moment at which the curtain is to drop forever on the public scenes of my life, my sensations anticipate, and do not permit me to suspend, the deep acknowledgments required by that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred on me, for the distinguished confidence it has reposed in me, and for the opportunities I have thus enjoyed of testifying my inviolable attachment by the most stedfast services which my faculties could render. All the returns I have now to make will be in those vows which I shall carry with me to my retirement and to my grave, that Heaven may continue to favor the people of the United States with the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that their union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of their own hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every Department may be stamped with wisdom and with virtue, and that this character may be ensured to it by that watchfulness over public servants and public measures which, on the one hand, will be necessary to prevent or correct a degeneracy, and that forbearance, on the other, from unfounded or indiscriminate jealousies, which would deprive the public of the best services by depriving a conscious integrity of one of the noblest incitements to perform them; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of America under the auspices of liberty may be made complete, by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire them the glorious satisfaction of recommending it to the affection, the praise, and the adoption, of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.
IX. In contemplating the moment of retreat, cannot forbear to express his deep acknowledgments and debt of gratitude for the many honors conferred on him—the steady confidence, which, even amidst discouraging scenes and efforts to poison its source, has adhered to support him, and enabled him to be useful—marking, if well placed, the virtue and wisdom of his countrymen. All the return he can now make must be in the vows he will carry with him to his retirement: 1st, for a continuance of the Divine beneficence to his country; 2d, for the perpetuity of their union and brotherly affection—for a good administration insured by a happy union of watchfulness and confidence; 3d, that happiness of people under auspices of liberty may be complete; 4th, that by a prudent use of the blessing they may recommend to the affection, the praise, and the adoption of every nation yet a stranger to it.
[Here all similarity between the two papers ceases, and I give the suggestions of each writer:—]
“And may we not dwell with well-grounded hopes on this flattering prospect, when we reflect on the many ties by which the people of America are bound together, and the many proofs they have given of an enlightened judgment and a magnanimous patriotism?
“We may all be considered as the children of one common country. We have all been embarked in one common cause. We have all had our share in common sufferings and common successes. The portion of the earth, allotted for the theatre of our fortunes, fulfils our most sanguine desires. All its essential interests are the same; while the diversities arising from climate, from soil, and from other local and lesser peculiarities, will naturally form a mutual relation of the parts, that may give to the whole a more entire independence, than has perhaps fallen to the lot of any other nation.
“To confirm these motives to an affectionate and permanent union, and to secure the great objects of it, we have established a common government, which, being free in its principles, being founded in our own choice, being intended as the guardian of our common rights, and the patron of our common interests, and wisely containing within itself a provision for its own amendment as experience may point out its errors, seems to promise every thing that can be expected from such an institution; and, if supported by wise counsels, by virtuous conduct, and by mutual and friendly allowances, must approach as near to perfection as any human work can aspire, and nearer than any which the annals of mankind have recorded.
“With these wishes and hopes I shall make my exit from civil life; and I have taken the same liberty of expressing them, which I formerly used in offering the sentiments which were suggested by my exit from military life.
“If, in either instance, I have presumed more than I ought, on the indulgence of my fellow-citizens, they will be too generous to ascribe it to any other cause, than the extreme solicitude which I am bound to feel, and which I can never cease to feel, for their liberty, their prosperity, and their happiness.”
X. Perhaps here he ought to end. But an unconquerable solicitude for the happiness of his country will not permit him to leave the scene without availing himself of whatever confidence may remain in him, to strengthen some sentiments which he believes to be essential to their happiness, and to recommend some rules of conduct, the importance of which his own experience has more than ever impressed upon him.
XI. To consider the union as the rock of their salvation, presenting summarily these ideas:
Safety, peace, and liberty and commerce.1. The strength and greater security from external danger.
2. Internal peace, and avoiding the necessity of establishments dangerous to liberty.
3. Avoids the effects of foreign intrigue.
4. Breaks the force of faction by rendering combinations more difficult.
Fitness of the parts for each other by their very discriminations:
1. The North, by its capacity for maritime strength and manufacture.
2. The agricultural South furnishing materials and requiring those protections.
The Atlantic board to the western country by the strong interest of peace, and
The Western, by the necessity of Atlantic maritime protection.
Cannot be secure of their great outlet otherwise—cannot trust a foreign connection.
Solid interests invite to union. Speculation of difficulty of government ought not to be indulged, nor momentary jealousies—lead to impatience.
Faction and individual ambition are the only advisers of disunion.
Let confidence be cherished. Let the recent experience of the West be a lesson against impatience and distrust.
XII. Cherish the actual government. It is the government of our own choice, free in its principles, the guardian of our common rights, the patron of our common interests, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment.
But let that provision be cautiously used—not abused; changing only in any material points as experience shall direct; neither indulging speculations of too much or too little force in the system; and remembering always the extent of our country.
Time and habit of great consequence to every government, of whatever structure.
Discourage the spirit of faction, the bane of free government; and particularly avoid founding it on geographical discriminations. Discountenance slander of public men. Let the departments of government avoid interfering and mutual encroachment.
XIII. Morals, religion, industry, commerce, economy. Cherish public credit—source of strength and security. Adherence to systematic views.
XIV. Cherish good faith, justice, and peace, with other nations:
1. Because religion and morality dictate it.
2. Because policy dictates it.
If these could exist, a nation invariably honest and faithful, the benefits would be immense.
But avoid national antipathies or national attachments.
Display the evils; fertile source of wars—instrument of ambitious rulers.
XV. Republics peculiarly exposed to foreign intrigue, those sentiments lay them open to it.
XVI. The great rule of our foreign policies ought to be to have as little political connection as possible with foreign nations.
Establishing temporary and convenient rules that commerce may be placed on a stable footing; merchants know their commerce: how to support them, not seeking favors.Cultivating commerce with all by gentle and natural means, diffusing and diversifying it, but forcing nothing—and cherish the sentiment of independence, taking pride in the appellation of American.
XVII. Our separation from Europe renders standing alliances inexpedient—subjecting our peace and interest to the primary and complicated relations of European interests.
Keeping constantly in view to place ourselves upon a respectable defensive, and if forced into controversy, trusting to connections of the occasion.
XVIII. Our attitude imposing and rendering this policy safe
But this must be with the exception of existing engagements, to be preserved but not extended.
XIX. It is not expected that these admonitions can control the course of the human passions, but if they only moderate them in some instances, and now and then excite the reflections of virtuous men heated by party spirit, my endeavor is rewarded.
XX. How far, in the administration of my present office my conduct has conformed to these principles, the public records must witness. My conscience assures me that I believed myself to be guided by them.
XXI. Particularly in relation to the present war, the proclamation of the 22d of April, 1793, is the key to my plan.Touch sentiments with regard to conduct of belligerent powers. A wish that France may establish good government. Approved by your voice and that of your representatives in Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually guided me, uninfluenced by, and regardless of, the complaints and attempts of any of the powers at war or their partisans to change them.
I thought our country had a right under all the circumstances to take this ground, and I was resolved as far as depended on me to maintain it firmly.Time everything.
XXII. However, in reviewing the course of my administration, I may be unconscious of intentional errors, I am too sensible of my own deficiencies not to believe that I may have fallen into many. I deprecate the evils to which they may tend, and pray Heaven to avert or mitigate and abridge them. I carry with me, nevertheless, the hope that my motives will continue to be viewed with indulgence, that after forty-five years of my life devoted to public service, with a good zeal and upright views, the faults of deficient abilities will be consigned to oblivion, and myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.
XXIII. Neither interest nor ambition has been my impelling motive. I never abused the power confided to me—I have not bettered my fortune, retiring with it, no otherwise improved than by the influence on property of the common blessings of my country:—I retire with undefiled hands and an uncorrupted heart, and with ardent vows for the welfare of that country, which has been the native soil of myself and my ancestors for four generations.
HINTS, OR HEADS OF TOPICS.
“Had the situation of our public affairs continued to wear the same aspect they assumed at the time the foregoing address was drawn, I should not have taken the liberty of troubling you, my fellow-citizens, with any new sentiment, or with a repetition more in detail of those, which are therein contained; but considerable changes having taken place, both at home and abroad, I shall ask your indulgence while I express, with more lively sensibility, the following most ardent wishes of my heart.
“That party disputes among all the friends and lovers of their country may subside, or, as the wisdom of Providence has ordained that men on the same subjects shall not always think alike, that charity and benevolence, when they happen to differ, may so far shed their benign influence, as to banish those invectives, which proceed from illiberal prejudices and jealousy.
“That, as the All-wise Dispenser of human blessings has favored no nation of the earth with more abundant and substantial means of happiness than United America, we may not be so ungrateful to our Creator, so wanting to ourselves, and so regardless of posterity, as to dash the cup of beneficence, which is thus bountifully offered to our acceptance.
“That we may fulfil with the greatest exactitude all our engagements, foreign and domestic, to the utmost of our abilities, whensoever and in whatsoever manner they are pledged; for in public, as in private life, I am persuaded that honesty will for ever be found to be the best policy.
“That we may avoid connecting ourselves with the politics of any nation, farther than shall be found necessary to regulate our own trade, in order that commerce may be placed upon a stable footing, our merchants know their rights, and the government the ground on which those rights are to be supported.
“That every citizen would take pride in the name of an American, and act as if he felt the importance of the character, by considering, that we ourselves are now a distinct nation, the dignity of which will be absorbed, if not annihilated, if we enlist ourselves, farther than our obligations may require, under the banners of any other nation whatsoever. And, moreover, that we should guard against the intrigues of any and every foreign nation, who shall endeavor to intermingle, however covertly and indirectly, in the internal concerns of our country, or who shall attempt to prescribe rules for our policy with any other power, if there be no infraction of our engagements with themselves, as one of the greatest evils that can befall us as a people; for, whatever may be their professions, be assured, fellow-citizens, and the event will, as it always has, invariably prove, that nations as well as individuals act for their own benefit, and not for the benefit of others, unless both interests happen to be assimilated, and when that is the case there requires no contract to bind them together; that all their interferences are calculated to promote the former; and, in proportion as they succeed, will render us less independent. In a word, nothing is more certain, than that, if we receive favors we must grant favors; and it is not easy to decide beforehand under such circumstances as we are, on which side the balance will ultimately preponderate; but easy indeed is it to foresee, that it may involve us in disputes, and finally in war, to fulfil political alliances. Whereas, if there be no engagements on our part, we shall be unembarrassed, and at liberty at all times to act from circumstances, and the dictates of justice, sound policy, and our essential interests.
“That we may be always prepared for war, but never unsheath the sword except in self-defence, so long as justice, and our essential rights and national respectability, can be preserved without it; for without the gift of prophecy it may safely be pronounced, that, if this country can remain in peace twenty years longer (and I devoutly pray, that it may do so to the end of time), such, in all probability, will be its population, riches, and resources, when combined with its peculiarly happy and remote situation from the other quarters of the globe, as to bid defiance, in a just cause, to any earthly power whatsoever.
“That, whensoever and so long as we profess to be neutral, our public conduct, whatever our private affections may be, may accord therewith; without suffering partialities on one hand, or prejudices on the other, to control our actions. A contrary practice is not only incompatible with our declarations, but is pregnant with mischief, embarrassing to the administration, tending to divide us into parties, and ultimately productive of all those evils and horrors which proceed from faction.
“That our Union may be as lasting as time; for, while we are encircled in one band, we shall possess the strength of a giant, and there will be none who can make us afraid. Divide, and we shall become weak, a prey to foreign intrigues and internal discord, and shall be as miserable and contemptible, as we are now enviable and happy.
“That the several departments of government may be preserved in their utmost constitutional purity, without any attempt of one to encroach on the rights or privileges of another; that the general and State governments may move in their proper orbits; and that the authorities of our own constitution may be respected by ourselves, as the most certain means of having them respected by foreigners.
“In expressing these sentiments it will readily be perceived, that I can have no other view now, whatever malevolence might have ascribed to it before, than such as results from a perfect conviction of the utility of the measure. If public servants, in the exercise of their official duties, are found incompetent, or pursuing wrong courses, discontinue them. If they are guilty of mal-practices in office, let them be more exemplarily punished. In both cases, the constitution and laws have made provision; but do not withdraw your confidence from them, the best incentive to a faithful discharge of their duty, without just cause; nor infer, because measures of a complicated nature, which time, opportunity, and close investigation alone can penetrate, for these reasons are not easily comprehended by those, who do not possess the means, that it necessarily follows they must be wrong. This would not only be doing injustice to your trustees, but be counteracting your own essential interests, rendering those trustees, if not contemptible in the eyes of the world, little better at least than ciphers in the administration of the government, and the constitution of your own choosing would reproach you for such conduct.”
As this Address, fellow-citizens, will be the last I shall ever make you, and as some of the gazettes of the United States have teemed with all the invective that disappointment, ignorance of facts, and malicious falsehoods could invent, to misrepresent my politics and affections; to wound my reputation and feelings; and to weaken if not entirely destroy the confidence you had been pleased to repose in me; it might be expected at the parting scene of my public life, that I should take some notice of such virulent abuse. But, as heretofore, I shall pass them over in utter silence; never having myself, nor by any other with my participation or knowledge, written, or published a scrap in answer to any of them. My politics have been unconcealed, plain and direct. They will be found (so far as they relate to the belligerent powers) in the proclamation of the 22d. of April, 1793; which, having met your approbation, and the confirmation of Congress, I have uniformly and steadily adhered to, uninfluenced by and regardless of the complaints and attempts of any of those powers or their partisans to change them.
The acts of my administration are on record. By these, which will not change with circumstances nor admit of different interpretations I expect to be judged. If they will not acquit me, in your estimation, it will be a source of regret; but I shall hope notwithstanding, as I did not seek the office with which you have honored me, that charity may throw her mantle over my want of abilities to do better—that the gray hairs of a man who has, excepting the interval between the close of the Revolutionary War and the organization of the new government—either in a civil, or military character, spent five and forty years—all the prime of his life—in serving his country, be suffered to pass quietly to the grave—and that his errors, however numerous, if they are not criminal, may be consigned to the tomb of oblivion, as he himself soon will be to the mansions of retirement.
To err is the lot of humanity, and never for a moment, have I ever had the presumption to suppose that I had not a full proporportion of it. Infallibility not being the attribute of man, we ought to be cautious in censuring the opinions and conduct of one another. To avoid intentional error in my public conduct has been my constant endeavor; and I set malice at defiance to charge me justly, with the commission of a wilful one; or, with the neglect of any public duty, which in my opinion ought to have been performed, since I have been in the administration of the government,—an administration which I do not hesitate to pronounce—the infancy of the government, and all other circumstances considered—that has been as difficult, delicate, and trying as may occur again in any future period of our history; through the whole of which I have to the best of my judgment, and with the best information and advice I could obtain, consulted the true and permanent interest of my country without regard to local considerations—to individuals—to parties—or to nations.
To conclude, and I feel proud in having it in my power to do so with truth, that it was not from ambitious views; it was not from ignorance of the hazard to which I knew I was exposing my reputation; it was not from an expectation of pecuniary compensation, that I have yielded to the calls of my country; and that, if my country has derived no benefit from my services, my fortune, in a pecuniary point of view, has received no augmentation from my country. But in delivering this last sentiment, let me be unequivocally understood as not intending to express any discontent on my part, or to imply any reproach on my country on that account. [The first would be untrue—the other ungrateful. And no occasion more fit than the present may ever occur perhaps to declare, as I now do declare, that nothing but the principle upon which I set out, and from which I have in no instance departed, not to receive more from the public than my expenses, has restrained the bounty of several legislatures at the close of the war with Great Britain from adding considerably to my pecuniary resources.]1 I retire from the chair of government no otherwise benefitted in this particular than what you have all experienced from the increased value of property, flowing from the peace and prosperity with which our country has been blessed amidst tumults which have harrassed and involved other countries in all the horrors of war. I leave you with undefiled hands, an uncorrupted heart, and with ardent vows to Heaven for the welfare and happiness of that country in which I and my forefathers, to the third or fourth progenitor, drew our first breath.
[1 ]Morris had written to Washington (March 4th), that the new French minister was about to sail for America, “directed to exact in the space of fifteen days a categorical answer to certain questions. What these are I can only conjecture, but suppose that you will, in effect, be called on to take part decidedly with France. Mr. Monroe will no doubt endeavor to convince the rulers of that country that such conduct will force us into the war against them; but it is far from impossible that the usual violence of their counsels will prevail.” Morris wrote more fully to Hamilton on the same day.—Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris, ii., 159.
[2 ]“When last in Philadelphia, you mentioned to me your wish, that I should redress a certain paper, which you had prepared. As it is important that a thing of this kind should be done with great care, and much at leisure touched and retouched, I submit a wish, that as soon as you have given it the body you mean it to have, it may be sent to me.”—Hamilton to Washington, 10 May, 1796.
[1 ]Rufus King.
[2 ]Although Hamilton replied on the 20th, he does not appear to have even mentioned the receipt of the draught of the Valedictory Address; for in reply to a letter from Washington (of the 29th), he wrote on June 1st: “I thought I had acknowledged the receipt of the paper inquired for in a letter written speedily after it—or in one which transmitted you a draft of a certain letter by Mr. Jay.”
[1 ]In printing the inclosure I have added Hamilton’s “Abstract of Points” to show the modifications he suggested, although it is doubtful if this Abstract was ever shown to the President. On the manuscript is noted “Copy of the original draught, considerably amended”; a note that Mr. Binney very reasonably supposes to mean that a much altered and expanded paper was based upon this abstract, and such a paper was sent to Washington on July 30th.
[2 ]A few sentences, containing a reference to Madison, have been erased.
[1 ]In the margin of this passage Washington noted: “This may or not be omitted.” The brackets do not appear in the copy of Washington’s draught.