Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from James McHenry, 30 September 1792

From James McHenry

[Baltimore] Sunday 30th Septr. 1792

My dear Hamilton.

I received your letter of the 23 in the order of the mail, and yesterday yours of the 27th.1 With respect to the former I have made no use of the quoted paragraph and hesitate between shewing it to the Bishop2 or the principal himself.3 Altho I think I may trust the Bishop, and am certain that it would be communicated yet if I shew it to the latter it may be in less danger of getting abroad and produce the same effect. I shall as far as in my power resist the New York project.4 I think it full of danger to the public. Is Adams to be supported?

I wish your letter of the 27th had arrived on Thursday.5 The notification could then have appeared in Goddards paper6 of last friday and would have had time to have circulated in Anne Arundel & Prince George’s Counties, (Mercers district). Now it cannot appear till tuesday next, and the election begins to-morrow and ends on thursday, so that it will scarcely be heard of till after the election. I have greatly retarded my recovery by the part I have taken in this business. The first Valerius I wrote a little before I was taken ill and that published in last fridays paper7 under a depression of spirits and great debility. I have also employed Major Hopkins of Anne Arundel County,8 who is under considerable pecuniary obligations to me to circulate hand bills which contains popular charges against Mercer and fixes upon him some false-hoods. But after all I only don’t despair of his being defeated. I am not able yet to go abroad, except walking a little in my garden.

An express arrived yesterday from Hagers Town that Gen William’s9 life was dispaired of. Should he die I must intreat you to remember Mr. Purviance10 who is naval officer and of course the natural heir to his office. You know or may have heard that he was one of the first merchnts in this Town, is qualified to discharge its duties, has never shrunk from the right cause and has a very numerous & young family to maintain. These circumstances make me desirous that he should in the event of the generals death succeed him: and then you would have an opportunity to serve me by Mr. Salmons11 taking Mr. Purviances place. It is impossible to get a man better qualified than Mr. Salmon for either office. He is popular, a man of honor and a respected judge in our criminal and orphans courts. If neither can be appointed I request that I may hear from you before you determine upon a successor. The office nets perhaps better than £ 2000 per annum—possesses vast influence, and ought not to be given away lightly or without due consideration of character.

By Fenno’s Gazette12 of the 26 it appears to me that the writer in Dunlap’s paper13 or the Attorney General quotes a letter written to him subsequent [to] the adoption of the constitution by Virginia and nine States. I think so because it seems a reply to the arguments used in that body in support of the constitution in the form it issued from the convention. The letter in question quoted by Judge Pendleton and pushed out of view by Mr Maddison that writer has withheld.14 That is the evidence upon which the charge rests. Explanations of Mr. Jefferson likes or dislikes when the thing was out of his reach does not do away the advice offered in his concealed letter.

I flatter myself that Maryland will at least elect five or six federal representatives out of her eight.

Yours most sincerely & affetionately

James McHenry

Since writing the above I learned from the printer that Mr Ross was in Town and sent to him to come out. He has not received your letter,15 and is here to get a reply published for the polls in answer to a justification of Mercers which appeared in Greene’s last paper.16 I have seen neither; but Ross tells me the charge against you is not denied. You will have Greene no doubt on Tuesday. I wish Ross had as much ability as he has honesty and good intentions. Mercer circulated that the President wished that he should be elected. This has been traced, the President has denied it and of course the lie has lodged where it ought.17

Farewel, God bless my dear Hamilton.

Yours affectionately

James McHenry

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Neither letter has been found.

2Bishop John Carroll.

3Presumably Charles Carroll of Carrollton. See McHenry to H, August 16, 1792.

4See H to ———, September 21, 26, 1792.

5H’s letter of September 27, 1792, undoubtedly described the charges against H by John F. Mercer of Maryland. See the introductory note to H to Mercer, September 26, 1792; H to David Ross, September 26, 1792.

6The [Baltimore] Maryland Journal and the Baltimore Advertiser was published by William Goddard and his brother-in-law, James Angell. Goddard, who founded the paper in 1773, had announced that he was transferring his share in the paper to Angell ([Philadelphia] Gazette of the United States, August 25, 1792).

7The first “Valerius” article, dated August 27, 1792, appeared in The Maryland Journal and the Baltimore Advertiser on August 31, 1792. The second “Valerius” article appeared in the September 28, 1792, issue of the same newspaper.

8Presumably David Hopkins.

9Otho H. Williams was collector of customs at Baltimore.

10Robert Purviance.

11George Salmon.

12The Gazette of the United States was published by John Fenno.

13The “Vindication of Mr. Jefferson” first appeared on September 22, 1792, in [Philadelphia] Dunlap’s American Daily Advertiser, which was published by John Dunlap. See “Catullus No. IV,” October 17, 1792, note 4.

McHenry first wrote “Aristides” and then crossed it out. He then wrote “the writer in Dunlaps paper” above “Aristides.” For background concerning “Aristides,” see “Catullus No. I,” September 15, 1792, note 2.

14This is a reference to H’s charge that Thomas Jefferson had recommended early in 1788 that four states withhold their assent to the Constitution. See “An American No. II,” August 11, 1792. See also “Catullus No. IV,” October 17, 1792, note 3.

16The [Annapolis] Maryland Gazette was published by Frederick and Samuel Green.

17See H to Mercer, September 26, 1792, note 19.

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