Alexander Hamilton Papers

On James Blanchard, [January 1793]

On James Blanchard1

[Philadelphia, January, 1793]

That the spirit of Faction is a common and one of the most fatal diseases of Republics, one which has most frequently wrought their destruction, is a truth witnessed by all history and by all experience. That this spirit would make its way into the American Republic was a thing to have been looked for, as well from the nature of man, as from the experience which has been had in every other case. But that it would so soon have attained the extreme violence at which it has arrived—that at so early a stage of our public affairs, we should have seen a powerful party formed in our councils actuated wholly by the springs of personal rivalship jealousy and animosty—considering men only and not measures resisting constantly whatever is proposed, by others—and proposing nothing themselves for the public interest or advantage—exhibiting a perpetual conflict of principles, true only to the point of personal opposition, maligning today this measure because it contains a particular quality or does not permit a particular thing; and tomorrow quarrelling with that very quality and rejecting that very thing when it is presented to them in another measure—labouring incessantly to obscure the clearest objects and to excite fears doubts and distrusts in the community which they cannot themselves feel—always industriously sowing and fostering discontents, artfully inviting to their standard the discontented of every description—countenancing and using as instruments of the foulest calumny and detraction the most worthless characters among us—and in the desperate game of ambition putting every thing that is dear in Society to the hazard of the die—that we should so soon have been witnesses to such a scene was not within the ordinary course of probality. Yet such is the true picture of our situation—a situation which ought to be viewed by every sober and virtuous citizen as the melancholy prognostic of future convulsion and calamity—a situation nevertheless far from being as extensively understood as it ought to be and which, except with a few, who have better opportunities of observation has not hitherto excited a due degree of alarm or attention. The pernicious designs meditated against the public tranquillity & happiness are cloaked under so thick a veil of hypocrhisy, that the real conspirators against the public weal pass with a large proportion of the community as its best friends and guardians.

Such alas has been the usual good fortune of the same description of men in all countries and at all times! Happy thrice happy will be it for the People of America if they shall finally vindicate their character for discernment, by avoiding the snares which are spread for them by these wiley hypochrites—these crafty and abandonned imposters!

One of the principal engines, which is imployed by the party alluded to, is an unremitting effort to destroy, by every expedient they can devise, no matter how base, the public confidence in those, who are the most powerful obstacles to their machinations.

General and indiscrimate charges, dark and mysterious hints of speculation and corruption in the characters they wished to pull down were for a long time the weapons they have employed to effect their favourite purpose. But grown bolder of late and finding other means necessary to forward the work they have at length adopted the expedient of employing persons as public Accusers—who having no characters to lose, do not scruple to affix their names to the calumniating falshoods which are dictated to them.

A gross and disgustful instance of this exists in the case of James Blanchard; a man absolutely bankrupt both in fortune and fame. This Desperado comes forward the Apostle of purity, the Champion of the injured Soldier, the professor of a holy zeal against speculation and speculators—and to bestow an air of authenticity upon the slanders he wishes to propagate, he gives them the sanction of his name. See publication on the Signature of JB in the NG.2 Other instruments of the party are at the same time employed, in order to give importance to his communications, to make the panygeric of his independence and virtue. And Mr. Blanchard finds himself the theme of encomiastic addresses.3

Who is this virtuous Champion? Let the following narrative answer.

(History of Blanchard & his tricks & falsehoods accompanied with a plan & distinct reference to the proofs?)4

Now let the Public judge what regard is due to the ridiculous tales of this worthless man. And what respect to a party which countenances and puts into action such vile and detestable instruments.

Among the characters he has attempted to asperse is found the Secretary of the Treasury. I pass by as unworthy of notice the insinuations he throws out to the prejudice of that Gentleman’s military merit. Let the appeal be here to recorded facts and to the knowlege of the whole army.

I confine myself to those suggestions which endeavour to throw upon him the suspicion of being what is generally understood by the word Speculator. The immaculate Blanchard says5

Mr. Hamilton finished his Military service with the seize of York, at which he commanded a corps of Light Infantry composed of detachments from different Regiments; and being attached to no permanent corps of the army the event of that seige which was in fact the termination of military operations in all but S C & Georgia left him without the opportunity of being further useful in the army. He however did not resign but obtained a furlough or leave of absence from the commander in Chief; with the declared intention of rejoining the army if circumstances, contrary to expectation, should call for farther exertions in that line. Mr Hamilton then went to Albany where he had left Mrs. Hamilton in the house of her father, and resumed the study of the law which he had but began at the time of his entrance into the army in the early part of 1776—a pursuit which it will readily be conceived engaged his whole time and attention.

In [July, 1782]6 the Legislature of New York elected him a Member of Congress, which body he joined at an interesting period of the public affairs and continued with in until [July, 1783] when he left it, returned to Albany and resumed the pursuit of the Law.

In [December, 1783] the City of New York was evacuated. Mr Hamilton removed with his family to that City; and was constantly afterwards, except when diverted from it by temporary public avocations, sedulously engaged in the practice of the Law.

It is well known to all his fellow Citizens (and candid men of all parties will confess it) that Mr. Hamilton scrupulousness forebore being concerned in what is termed speculation (the most familiar objects of which in the state of New York were Public Securities and confiscated property). In fine he came into his present Office, with a character in pecuniary respects, as pure as any man in the UStates. Such was the general opinion & voice of his fellow Citizens?

Is it probable then that since he has been in Office, when under a positive and explicit prohibition of law, he should not only have abandonned all the maxims of his former life—but should disgrace himself by a perjured violation of his Official duties? Is such a suspicion to be entertained upon the surmises of a virulent and persecuting Faction or the insinuations of a man who is proved to be destitute of Truth and honor?

Mr. Blanchard has not indeed directly charged the Secretary of the Treasury with being concerned while in Office in speculation; but he has stated7

and has left it to be inferred that there was an interested understanding between Mr. H and Mr Lamed in relation to a plan intended to be brought before Congress.

With sensible men the absurdity of the things refutes the suggestion. It is destitute of all probability that Mr. H should ever have had it in contemplation to propose to Congress to raise the three to 6 per Cents to six and make the deferred bear a present interest of 6 per Cent which is the allegation of Mr. Blanchard. Such a plan would have contradicted all the principles Mr. H had laid down in his reports would have called immediately for great additional resources of taxation which he has uniformly manifested his opinion could not be commanded and would have had not the least chance of success with Congress. It is certain that no such plan has ever been hinted to Congress by the Secretary; and considering what manner of man Mr Blanchard is, the natural conclusion must be that the whole tale is an aukward and malicious forgery.

ADf, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Blanchard had served as quartermaster and regimental paymaster of the Third New Hampshire Regiment during the American Revolution. In 1791 and 1792 he was a persistent opponent of the funding system and an advocate of discrimination in favor of those Revolutionary War soldiers who through necessity had alienated their certificates. Blanchard’s letters suggest that he was a self-appointed delegate to persuade the soldiers of the Revolutionary Army in the various states to demand from the United States Congress a settlement of their claims. See Blanchard to H, May, 1791, February 29, 1792.

This essay by H was prompted by the following exchange of letters between Blanchard and John N. Cumming, a businessman from Newark, New Jersey, which appeared in the [Philadelphia] National Gazette on January 5, 1793:

“Mr. Freneau,

“Please to give the two following letters a place in your paper, and you will oblige

“Your humble servant,

James Blanchard

“Phila. Jan. 4 1793.


“I received your’s of November 15, a few days since. Your information by Capt. Donald was true respecting both your and Gen. [William] Hull’s circular letters. The Cincinnati, as a society, voted against taking up the consideration, but had nothing against the merits of the memorial of Gen. Hull, as officers. A number of our leading characters, from fortunate circumstances, kept their certificates, and perhaps purchased some in addition, and feel themselves very comfortable. The officers of inferior ranks have mostly moved out of the state, or by marriage or business got Into tolerable circumstances. It is said our members of Congress, at least two of them, viz. [Elias] Boudinot and [Jonathan] Dayton, have made money by speculation. As for my own part, thank God, I am able to live by the sweat of my brow: almost all my certificates I sold at about ¾ for 20/.—throwing in the interest. I thought from the disposition of the officers, at their last meeting, that it would be difficult to obtain a meeting of one half on the subject—my business requiring my constant attention, induced me to lay aside any thoughts on the subject. I have at the same time no doubt but about one half of our officers, were they collected, would join with you and the rest of our brethren, in asserting claims founded in perfect justice.

“I am, Sir   Your obedient servant,

J. N. Cumming.

“New-Ark, Dec. 5, 1792.

“Philadelphia, Dec. 19, 1792.


“I received your favor of the 5th instant, and wrote you a few lines in answer; but on a second reading, I beg leave to inform you, that I lament your senior officers declining to come forward in behalf of those of inferior rank and the soldiery, who have not ability to come forward for themselves.

“Notwithstanding those gentlemen have been so fortunate as to retain their own certificates, and perhaps to make an addition, the remnant petitioned for would not affect their purchases, but do justice to their private stock.

“With regard to your members, Captain Dayton was not in Congress when the funding law passed, and cast his bread upon the waters with other speculators. But Mr. Boudinot was in Congress, and having a large sum in fictitious certificates, had an opportunity to fund a large sum of debt for a small sum in specie.

“The representatives from the Eastern States are endeavoring to persuade the agents that are here, that they will see the fallacy of their application; for the representatives of the states of Virginia and Georgia do not mean, by advocating the cause of the army, that they should receive any payments, but to bring on a division, in hopes to overthrow the government.

“This would be an unpopular doctrine in Virginia, as they have the fullest confidence in the justice and ability of their members.

“The farmers in the southern states conceive they have been swindled out of their certificates by the New-England speculators. This belief has been corroborated on the information of a letter from Mr. Amasa Learned, a member from Connecticut, in the beginning of the last session to Mr. Jedidiah Leeds, of Richmond, soliciting him to be an agent in Virginia (either on commissions, or as a partner) for the purpose of purchasing the deferred and state debts; advising that those certificates could be purchased at a low rate, and that the Secretary of the Treasury was bringing forward a plan to make the whole debt at 6 per cent. stock, which was then selling at 25 shillings in the pound. But Mr. Leeds doubted the propriety of the transaction, and declined the concern.

“At present I can form no conjecture of the sequel. Col. Hamilton, notwithstanding his appointment in the continental army, secured to himself a place from danger, and was indulged two years previous to the treaty of peace, to be absent on his private concerns, and in the advantages of speculation: since he has been Secretary of the Treasury, he is against any payments, except the depreciated paper which the army have received, that netted them only one eighth of the sum stipulated in specie for their monthly wages: And the President, notwithstanding his pathetic promises in general orders, at New-Windsor (That a country rescued by their arms from impending ruin, will never leave unpaid the debt of gratitude) is now silent.

“The writings for public information on the funding system are nearly finished, and a part are sent to the counties of Berkshire and Hampshire, in Massachusetts.

“I am, Sir,   most respectfully,   Your humble servant,   James Blanchard.

“To Col. J. N. Cumming—Newark”

2See note 1.

3In the margin opposite this sentence H wrote: “See: address to JB in the NG.” This is a reference to a letter to James Blanchard, signed “A Fellow Laborer,” which had appeared in the National Gazette on January 9, 1793.

4The following document, in an unidentified handwriting, dated “Philadelphia Jany 8th 1793,” in the Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress, is part of the evidence collected by H: “Mr. Blanchard in conversation with Mr. Isaac Bronson, mentioned that his last journey to Virginia was unsuccessful, he not being able to raise money by the sale of Lands as he expected; so as to profit by a List of bounty Lands due to the Virginia Line. Being asked how he obtained the List, he replied that it was ‘by stealth from the War Office’—but that the Office was now more careful & that another List could not be obtained. He admitted that he had not personally suffered by the depreciation of Certificates, his own being lately obtained. Mr. Bronson understood from Blanchard that he had not seen Mr. Learneds Letter to which he had alluded in the Newspaper publication but that there was a Man in Philadelphia who had seen it. This conversation was this day.”

5At this point H left a space of several lines blank in the MS. See note 1.

6The dates enclosed in brackets in this document were omitted in MS.

7At this point H left a space of several lines blank in the MS. See note 1.

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