Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Gouverneur Morris, 16 May 1777

From Gouverneur Morris1

Kingston [New York] 16th. May 1777


I had the Pleasure of your two Favors within two Days of each other and am very happy to find that our Form of Government meets with your Approbation. That there are Faults in it is not to be wondered at for it is the Work of Men and of Men perhaps not the best qualified for such Undertakings. I think it deficient for the Want of Vigor in the executive unstable from the very Nature of popular elective Governments and dilatory from the Complexity of the Legislature. For the first I apologize by hinting the Spirit which now reigns in America suspiciously Cautious. For the second because unavoidable. For the third because a simple Legislature soon possesses itself of too much Power for the Safety of its Subjects. God grant it may work well for we must live under it.

I cannot perswade myself that Howe2 will either go to Philadelphia or come hither. In either Case Genl. Washington can hang upon his Rear and place him in the Light rather of a fugitive than a Conqueror. If he bends his Efforts this Way the Council of Safety you may depend upon it will exert themselves to make his Situation as uneasy as he would wish probably more so. The Spirit of the Tories we have great Reason to believe is entirely broken in this State. If it is not it will soon be so. For they shall have a few more Executions than which nothing can be more efficacious. I speak from Experience but then it is necessary to disperse the Victims of public Justice throughout different Parts of the several States for nothing but occular Demonstration can convince these incredulous Beings that we do really hang them. I wish the several States would follow our Example. Pensilvania in particular would experience many good Effects from a vigorous manly executive.

Adieu   Your most obdt.   & humble Servant

Gouvr Morris

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1This letter was written by Morris in his capacity as a member of the New York Committee of Correspondence.

Although the new state constitution of New York was proclaimed on April 20, 1777, it was several months before the new government was actually established. In the interval between old and new governments, New York was run by a Council of Safety, which consisted of fifteen men elected by the Provincial Convention on May 3, 1777. The Committee of Correspondence, which had been established by the Provincial Convention, remained in existence under the Council of Safety (Journals of the Provincial Congress of the State of New-York description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety and Council of Safety of the State of New-York. 1775–1776–1777 (Albany, 1842). description ends , I, 910, 934).

2Sir William Howe, commander in chief of the British forces in America.

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