From Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens1
[South Carolina, July, 1782]
I am indebted to you, my dear Hamilton, for two letters; the first from Albany,2 as masterly a piece of cynicism as ever was penned, the other from Philadelphia, dated the 2d March;3 in both, you mention a design of retiring, which makes me exceedingly unhappy. I would not wish to have you for a moment withdrawn from the public service; at the same time, my friendship for you, and knowlege of your value to the United States, make me most ardently desire, that you should fill only the first offices of the Republic. I was flattered with an account of your being elected a delegate from N. York,4 and am much mortified not to hear it confirmed by yourself. I must confess to you, that, at the present state of the War, I shd. prefer your going into Congress, and from thence, becoming a Minister plenipotentiary for peace, to your remaining in the Army, where the dull System of seniority and the Tableau would prevent you from having the important commands to which you are entitled; but at any rate I wd. not have you renounce your rank in the Army, unless you entered the career above-mentioned. Your private affairs cannot require such immediate and close attention; you speak like a pater familias5 surrounded with a numerous progeny.
I had, in fact, resumed the black project,6 as you were informed, and urged the matter very strenuously, both to our privy council and legislative body; but I was out-voted, having only reason on my side, and being opposed by a triple-headed monster that shed the baneful influence of Avarice, prejudice, and pusillanimity in all our Assemblies. It was some consolation to me, however, to find that philosophy and truth had made some little progress since my last effort, as I obtained twice as many suffrages as before.7
AL, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress. This letter is dated 1781 in JCHW description begins John C. Hamilton, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1851). description ends , I, 214–15.
1. Early in September, 1781, Laurens had returned from France where he had served as envoy extraordinary. He immediately re-entered the Army, serving until January, 1782. He was a member of the “Jacksonborough legislature” which convened on January 18 and adjourned on February 26, 1782. Seeking to play a more active part in the Revolution, Laurens then returned to active duty in the Army.
2. Letter not found.
3. Letter not found.
4. H was elected to the Continental Congress on July 22, 1782.
5. H’s first child, Philip, was born on January 22, 1782.
6. This is a reference to Laurens’s plan to enlist slaves to fight against the British. On May 19, 1782, Laurens wrote to Washington that this plan had been again defeated (George Washington Papers, Library of Congress).
7. The remaining page or pages of this letter are missing. It is possible that the fragment, Laurens to H, July, 1782, is the concluding paragraph of this letter.