Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from John Witherspoon, 16 November 1787

From John Witherspoon1

Princeton [New Jersey] Nov 16. 1787


I have just received your Letter2 inclosing Baron Steubens Printed Paper3 In answer please to knew that Nothing passed between me & the Committee that can be constructed as the least Contradiction to which I certified formerly. They asked now4 whether there was an actual or explicit Contract with Baron Steuben verbally though not written I answerd that there was not any proper formal Contract between him & the Committee this could be as the Committee had no Such Powers & that it did not appear that the Baron himself alledged that there was. He made his proposals & I remember mentioned his having sacrificed good Appointments in Europe but I cannot recollect the Amount nor did it Seem of any Importance as he referred himself to the Success of the War & the Justice & Generosity of Congress in the Circumstances in which they should find themselves at the End of it. The Committee you perceive by other Testimonies repeated the whole of this to Congress so that the Facts are as well established as They can be. The Barons Claim is a Claim of Equity & Generosity on Congress the Grounds of which can be as clearly laid before Congress now as formerly.

I should have been glad to have knew whether the Paper No 15 immediately preceeding my Certificate5 is an exact Copy of that to which the Certificate was adjected because there is a reference on the Certificate to a preceeding representation At any Rate it can differ very little.

I have the honour   Sir   Your most obedt humble Servant

Jno Witherspoon

Honble Alexr Hamilton Esqr

ALS, RG 46, First Congress, 1789–1791, Reports of Select Committees, Claim of Baron de Steuben, National Archives; copy, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives.

1Dr. John Witherspoon, president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton), was a member of the committee of the Continental Congress which was appointed in February, 1778, to confer with Baron von Steuben on the terms of his acceptance of a commission in the Continental Army. Von Steuben later maintained that Congress had promised him compensation at the war’s end. His claim was repeatedly presented to Congress, and on October 6, 1787, Congress again considered it. H on behalf of von Steuben sent to prominent men, whose influence might be useful in securing the success of the claim, a pamphlet (Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives) exhibiting von Steuben’s service in the Patriot cause. See H to George Washington, October 30, 1787, and Washington to H, November 10, 1787.

2Letter not found.

3The reference is to the pamphlet described in note 1.

4The copy, in the Papers of the Continental Congress, reads “me.”

5Witherspoon is referring to his statement, dated November 1, 1785, in the von Steuben pamphlet, which described the part he had played as chairman of the committee which had conferred with von Steuben. Number 15 was an account of the meeting of that committee with von Steuben in February, 1778.

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