ALEXANDER HAMILTON MANUSCRIPTS The following Manuscript Digest contains abstracts of the Alexander Hamilton letters contained in the Lloyd W. Smith Collection of Morristown National Historical Park. They represent correspondence and documents written by Alexander Hamilton spanning the years from 1777 to 1802.
The manuscripts represent many different phases of Hamilton’s life: as an Aide-de-Camp to General Washington; as a General; as an attorney; and as Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. They present insights into his personality and into his political views.
Microfilm copies of these documents are available at the Morristown National Historical Park’s research library in Morristown. For further information, or to access copies of the manuscripts, please contact the Division of Cultural Resources at (973) 539-2016.
HAMILTON, Alexander, ADC [Head Quarters, Galloways in the Clove] [July 21, 1777].
To unknown recipient, addressed as “Sir”. 2 pp.
Microfilm Reel 21: 626-627.
Asks recipient to return to his station instead of coming to join the army at present because the intelligence has proven not to be as expected. Says His Excellency thinks it likely that the enemy will make some incursion into “the Jerseys” to “plunder and destroy the inhabitants, perhaps even to endeavor to destroy our [illegible] at Morris Town”. Asks for assistance if this occurs.
Admits that they are “in the dark” about the enemy’s movements, and requests recipient to use all his resources to gain intelligence about them.
HAMILTON, Col. Alexander, [Unknown date and location].
To Colonel Bland of the lighthorse. 1 page and envelope.
Microfilm Reel 21: 628-629.
Fragment of a document. Mostly illegible. References Elizabethtown and Col. Dayton. Says officer will inquire for [illegible]. Mentions Newark and “send for Maj. [illegible] Hayes, and get him to use his endeavors”…….
HAMILTON, Alexander [unknown location] [August 28, 1779].
To The Honorable W. Duane at The Manor of Livingston, 1 page and envelope.
Microfilm Reel 21: 630-631.
Updates recipient on recent events. Reports “A [illegible] paper of the 24th announces the arrival of the Russet [?] of 74, which parted Thursday from Arbuthnot’s fleet”. Mentions that “subsequent intelligence gives us the arrival of the whole fleet”. Underlines the note that “Wayne is still safe”.
Reports that Sir George Collier has appeared on The Penobscot River, and that our fleet was abandoned and burnt. Says that Col. Jackson’s regiment was sent as reinforcement, and landed at Portsmouth. Notes that this information came in a letter from General Gates to Colonel Hay. Reports that the letter from General Gates also says that three of the continental frigates arrived in Boston with “six sail [?] out of ten of the Jamaica fleet which had fallen into their hands containing 5000 Lbs. [?] of rum and sugar”.
The envelope has a notation that “General Greene’s care of this letter is requested by his humble servant, Alexander Hamilton”
HAMILTON, Alexander [unknown location] [September 7, 1779].
To The Honorable James Duane, Esq., at The Manor of Livingstone. 2 pp. and an envelope.
Microfilm Reel 21: 632-634.
Acknowledges receipt of a letter from recipient, with an enclosed letter for Col. Washington. Says current intelligence is that Arbuthnot’s arrival makes the total number of the reinforcement “about 3000, mostly recruits and in bad health”. Says that the conjecture is that an expedition is being planned for the south, perhaps for the West Indies. Hamilton’s opinion is that the enemy might try to take 2 or 3 of the southern states. Suggests that the enemy’s objective might change “from conquest to pacification”. Thinks that the possession of 2 or 3 of the southern states would offset the British losses in the islands, and would allow them to negotiate more successfully in the ensuing winter.
Reports on the western expedition, based on a letter from General Sullivan, written on the 30th. Says that the information from the letter was “extracted at Col. Hay’s request for [illegible] paper. Says there were 39 wounded, among whom were Major [illegible] and two other officers.
HAMILTON, Alexander [unknown location] [September 13, 1779]
To Major Lee. 1 page and 1 envelope.
Microfilm Reel 21: 635-636.
Says that Capt. McAllister delivered recipient’s note to Hamilton, and that Hamilton applied to Col. Scammel [?] for “copies of the order of approbation and the [illegible] of confirmation”, but that Hamilton was informed that they had already been forwarded to the recipient. Refers to an enclosed copy of the general’s letter, which ‘executes the [illegible] of my commission”. Says “If I did not think your vanity would be intolerable at the manner of your acquittal I should congratulate you upon it, as I am very trusty”.
The envelope is addressed to Major Lee, Light Dragoons, and Paramus. It is dated Sept. 17. However, in a corner of the envelope is the date of Sept. 13, 1779, A. Hamilton.
HAMILTON, Alexander [West Point] [Sept. 14, 1779]
To Hon. James C. Duane, 4 pp., includes an envelope.
Microfilm Reel 21: 637-640.
Says he received recipient’s letter of the 10th and that he allowed “your apple to pop out of my hands before it could be seen by the General”. Says it was seen by Tighlman and Meade, who considered themselves experts in the area, and who insisted that it was a common crabapple, and “bore not the least resemblance to Hughes’”. Says that he told them that Mr. Duane was “a virtuoso as well as themselves”, and that they baited him so much that he was as happy to have lost the apple. Says that “notwithstanding the railery” he underwent, that if the recipient would send another apple, he would endeavor to make sure it was not lost before it was seen by the General.
Says that the reinforcements with Arbuthnot did not exceed 3000, and that they were recruits and in bad health. Says that more than 1000 “died on the passage and the greater part of the remainder are journeying fast to the other world”. Says that disease prevails in other parts of the army, “and among the inhabitants, more than has been known at any time since the enemy has been in possession of the city”. Says they [the British] have been making preparations for embarking, and that “two German and one British regiment sailed from New York the 11th under convoy of a sixty-four”. Reports that the rumors of the destination include: The West Indies, Georgia, and Canada, but that the first [The West Indies] is the most probable.
(No. 6 continued)
States that “a vessel lately arrived at Boston from the cape reports that he sailed from that place in company with Count D’Estaing with 25 sail”, and some “transports containing 6000 troops taken in at the cape and bound first for Georgia and then further northward”. He parted with the fleet at “latitude 25, longitude 74”. Says 2 other vessels arrived in Connecticut and pretended that “they parted with a French fleet of men of war and transports in the latitude of Bermudas steering for this craft”. Says that those accounts are worthy of some attention, although he does not give them entire credit. Notes that the reduction of the enemy’s fleets and armies in this country would be the surest method of affecting a conquest of the islands, and “would be one of the most fatal strokes great Britain could receive”. He feels that the loss of their ships and seamen would be a terrible loss to them. Says The West Indies would have no further prospect of succor and would have to submit to France “without resistance”.
Says that [France] could then “operate at leisure”, aided by supplies from this continent. Says that “these reasons may have induced the Count to make us a visit during the season of inactivity in the West Indies”. Speculates that if the Count does not come himself, he might form a “junction with the Spanish fleet”, thereby maintaining superiority in the area.
Says that the body of the letter contained “mixed certainties, rumours and conjectures”, and that the recipient should believe as much as he thought proper. Adds that the General and family present their most affectionate respects.
Says that they are “to receive the new minister tomorrow morning”.
The last page has the envelope portion at the bottom of the page. It is addressed to Hon. James C. Duane. In the corner is “Col. Hamilton, 14 Sept., 1779”.
HAMILTON, Alexander [location unknown] [October 29, 1779].
To The Honorable James Duane, Esq. in Philadelphia. 2 pp. with an envelope.
Microfilm Reel 21: 641-643.
Reports that “Mr. Laurence [?] [somewhat illegible] is setting out for Philadelphia to obtain a determination respecting the provision that he may expect by continuing in his present station”. Says that his [Mr. Laurence’s] pay has been reduced and he does not know if he will have the situation remedied. Says there seems “to be no reason for eschewing him from this piece of justice” for he has worked very diligently on a moderate salary.
(No. 7 continued)
Mentions that he [Mr. Laurence?] has a certificate obtained from the General. Hamilton believes the recipient to be well acquainted with the merit of the gentleman in question. Says that he considers the man to be a “man of sense and integrity”. Says the man in question [Mr. Laurence?] requests the recipient’s assistance in obtaining a quick answer to his application so that he knows if he can continue in his present service or whether he must quit. Says that he is convinced that the recipient will ensure that justice is done for the gentleman in question.
Says that “I importune you often with the causes of brother officers – I do it upon two principles – a conviction of your friendship to the army and to Dear Sir, Your most obedient servant”.
The envelope is addressed to “The Honorable James Duane, Esq., Philadelphia”. In the corner is: Col. Hamilton, 29 Oct. 1779.
HAMILTON, Alexander [Morristown] [February 9, 1780]
To Colonel Pickering, QW [?] General. 1 page and a 2-part envelope.
Microfilm Reel 21: 644-646.
Reports that “the General has anticipated the [illegible] of your letter this day by ordering the greater part of the Jersey troops to Morristown to occupy the huts there”. Says that “he nevertheless continues in the desire that that place may not be the depositary of any large quantity of stores”.
Refers to the plight of two artificers, whose situation “can only be pitied, not redressed”. Says that the families of men in service cannot be objects of military provision, and that it is not possible to discriminate. Says that this is the sentiment of the General and has been applied to all former applications of the kind.
The first part of the envelope is addressed to “Colonel Pickering, QW [?] General”.
The second part of the envelope has “Col. Hamilton, A.D. Camp, Feb. 9, 1780” at the top. Beneath that is “Troops ordered to [illegible], general defence Morristown may not be depositary of consideration [illegible] in case of the artificers decided”.
SEITZ, Don on the letterhead of The Churchman, a religious journal [New York City] [March 9, 1932]
To Lloyd Smith, Esq. in Madison, NJ.
Notes material accompanying letter: a bound volume containing a letter of Alexander Hamilton to General Philip Schuyler on George Washington, LWS Collection.
(no 9 continued)
Microfilm Reel 21: 647.
Says he just completed a 2-volume life of Alexander Hamilton, in which he makes use of a letter written by Hamilton to Gen. Philip Schuyler from New Windsor on February 10, 1781. The letter he is using is taken from John C. Hamilton’s History of the United States. Notes that in the letter, Hamilton describes his rupture with Washington. He says that in the copy of the letter he is using, there are two gaps that he would like to have explained. He notes that the original of the letter is in Mr. Smith’s collection, and asks for access to it.
SMITH, Lloyd W. [unspecified location, but probably Madison, NJ] [March 9, 1932]
To Don C. Seitz, Esq. at The Churchman, New York, New York. 3 pp.
Microfilm Reel 21: 648-650.
Replies to the letter referenced above in entry 9. Acknowledges that he has a letter from Hamilton to his father-in-law, Gen. Schuyler, about the rupture with Washington. He reports that the letter purports to be the original letter. It is in the original handwriting of Hamilton, and bears his signature. It has many erasures and changes in style. He notes that he is unsure whether it is the original letter or a draft, and says that perhaps Hamilton copied it and sent Gen. Schuyler a different version
Notes that the letter contains 4 full pages intact and 4 additional pages, “the bottom parts of which are defective or entirely lost”. Gives supporting documentation from a cataloguer’s note that described his letter as the original letter when he bought it. The supporting documentation says that “J.C. Hamilton included this letter in the works……, but left out the most telling portions”. Notes that Henry Cabot Lodge, in his edition of the aforementioned works, states that “he prints the letter in full, having found a copy of the original among the papers of his grandfather, Henry Cabot”. The cataloguer says that the copy used by Lodge “contained a number of errors, as is shown by a careful reading of the original letter here offered which also contains many cancellations and corrections not in either printed version.”
Mr. Smith refers to the editor’s note accompanying Henry Cabot Lodge’s version of the letter. Mr. Lodge says that J.C. Hamilton suppressed parts of the letter because he realized that Hamilton wrote it when angry, and that it did not reflect Hamilton’s true feelings about Washington.
(No 10 continued)
Says that his copy is damaged, and that he cannot fill in the first gap about which the recipient asks, as there appears an asterisk in his letter. Smith feels that there might have been an asterisk, followed by some more verbiage on one of the destroyed pages. That might have filled in the gap. He says that Henry Cabot’s version of the letter does not have the gap.
Smith says that Lodge noted that there was a break in the 1850 edition of the letter, but that Lodge states that his version of the letter has no omission. Smith states that in his copy of the letter, the gap referred to by the recipient of this letter is one that he cannot completely explain because part of the passage is lost, it being on one of the damaged pages. He does fill in a few of the words, but notes that his version of the letter differs somewhat from Lodge’s version. He notes that the J.C. Hamilton copy is shorter than his [Smith’s] copy. He says that he feels that both J.C. Hamilton and Henry Cabot Lodge “have taken editorial liberties with the letter itself.”
Smith invites Mr. Seitz to come to see his copy of the letter.
HAMILTON, Alexander, [Head Quarters, New Windsor] [February 18, 1781].
To General Philip Schuyler
Microfilm Reel 21: 651-659. 8pp.
[Throughout the letter, there are many strikeouts, which will not be reflected in this abstract.]
Notes that since he last wrote recipient, “an unexpected [illegible] has taken place in my situation. I am no longer a member of the General’s family.” Says that 2 days ago, the General wanted to speak to him and that Hamilton said he “would wait upon him immediately”, and then went to deliver a letter to W. Tilghman “to be sent to the Commissary containing an order of a pressing and interesting nature”. When returning to the General, he was stopped by the Marquis de Lafayette, and they conversed for a minute. Notes that the Marquis can “testify how impatient I was to go back”, and that he left the Marquis abruptly to return to the General. Says that the General was not, as usual, in his rooms, but at the head of the stairs, where he accosted Hamilton in an angry tone, saying “Col. Hamilton, you have kept me waiting at the head of the stairs these ten minutes – I must tell you Sir you treat me with disrespect.” Hamilton says that he made the following reply “without petulancy”. “I am not conscious of it Sir, but since you have thought it necessary to tell me so we may part.”
(No. 11 continued)
The General replied “Very well Sir, if it be your choice.” Hamilton says they separated. Says he believes he was only absent for two minutes.
Reports that in less than an hour Tilghman came to him in the General’s name, assuring him of the General’s confidence in him and expressing the General’s desire to reconcile, as the words spoken were spoken in a moment’s passion. Hamilton says he replied that “I had taken my resolution in a manner not to be revoked” and “that a conversation could serve no other purpose than to produce explanations mutually disagreeable”, although he says he would meet with the General if the General wished it. Hamilton says he does not want to distress the General or the public business by “quitting him before he could derive other [illegible] by the return of some of the gentlemen who were absent.” Hamilton notes that he further said that though he was determined to leave the family, he hoped that their conduct toward one another might continue as though the incident had not happened.
Hamilton says he [the General] agreed to decline the conversation and that he thanked Hamilton for his offer of aid as mentioned above. Says that he awaits the return of W. Humphrey [illegible] from the east, and of W. Harrison from Virginia.
States that he has given the recipient a detailed account of the event in order to justify himself in the eyes of the recipient. Says he felt he was not precipitate in rejecting the General’s overtures of reconciliation, for his decision was not the result of his resentment. Says that it was the “deliberate result of maxims I had long formed for my own conduct”. Says he always disliked the office of Aide de Camp as “having in it a kind of personal dependence [?].” States that he had been offered the post earlier in his career by two Major Generals, and that he had refused. Says that he took this post with the General, “infected, however, with the enthusiasm of the times, an idea of the General’s character, which experience soon taught me to be unfounded, overcame my scruples and induced me to accept his offer [illegible] to enter into his family.* [sic]”
Hamilton says that the recipient knows that he has been in the General’s confidence, “which will make it the more extraordinary to you to learn that for three years past I have felt no friendship for him and have professed none. The truth is that our dispositions are the opposite. The pride of my temper would not suffer me to profess what I did not feel.*
(No. 11 continued)
[The asterisk refers to a piece written on the side of this page, denoted by another asterisk. That text is explained next.]
[The footnote referred to by the asterisk is partly illegible] Hamilton says that “when advances of this kind to me on his part [illegible] I wished to stand rather upon a footing of [illegible] private attachment.”
Hamilton says that the recipient knows human nature well enough to understand how “this conduct in me must have operated on a man to whom all the world is offering [illegible]”. Says that at the end of the war he will speak about many things, but will impose silence upon himself until then. [The bottom part of the letter has a missing fragment, and most of the words that remain on the bottom half are illegible.]
Says that if he thought his justification of his actions and his account of the affair would harm the friendship of the recipient and the General, he would almost forego writing this letter. Says his only intent is to satisfy the recipient that he is not in the wrong. He notes that all of this is said in confidence, and that a public knowledge of the breach would [illegible]. The words “conceal it and cover the”, and “some plausible pretense” appear on the bottom of the page. [There is a missing fragment at the bottom of the page.]
The letter continues with a reference to retiring on half pay. Says he has not made up his mind on this, as he would have to come in the “youngest [illegible, possibly D. Col.?] instead of the eldest, which I ought to have been by natural succession had I remained in the corps; and at the same time to resume studies relative to the profession, which, to avoid inferiority, must be laborious”. He says that “if a handsome command for the campaign in the [illegible] infantry should present itself, I shall [illegible] between this and the artillery”. [There is a missing fragment at the end of the page, and the words around it are somewhat illegible.]
[After the missing fragment, the letter continues in mid-sentence.] Concludes the letter by noting that he has written this letter with “all the freedom and confidence to which you have a right”, assured that the recipient takes an interest in all that concerns Hamilton.
HAMILTON, Alexander, [October, unknown date and location],
[unknown recipient], [The last page was probably used as an envelope, and has “Col. Hamilton” written on the edge.] 4pp.
Microfilm Reel 21: 660-663.
(No. 12 continued)
Acknowledges receipt of two letters from the recipient on the 16th and the 23rd.
Says he is in haste to reply in order to send this by an express going to the Governor so that he can update the recipient on the latest news. Reports that Count D’Estaing has arrived on the coast of Georgia. Notes that they are in possession of the Charles Town paper of the 8th [? Or 9th] of September, which “mentions that the Viscount De Fontanges [?] had arrived at that place sent by the Count to announce his approach”. Says that W. Mitchel [?], who sent the paper says M. Gerard [?] had received dispatches from the Count, informing him of “his intention to [illegible] the enemy in Georgia on the 9th”. Mr. Gerard postponed his own voyage in order to “be the bearer of the event”. Hamilton says he hopes this puts an end to the danger from the southern states, for which he “had strong apprehensions notwithstanding the presumption drawn from the enemy’s past folly against their pursuing a plan favourable to their interests”. Hamilton was afraid the enemy might “blunder upon the right way”. Says that “the departure of Cornwallis on the 25th, with the Grenadiers, the light infantry, and one British regiment had increased my horrors on this subject”. He felt the nature of the corps pointed to a “coup-de-main”, and feared that the object might be Charles Town. Says that the troops [the British] continue their embarkation, and that there are estimated to be about 5,000-6,000 troops.