Drafts of Apology Required
from James Nicholson1
[New York, July 25–26, 1795]
Mr. Hamilton declares & would repeat that when he interposed in the altercation between Mr. Nicholson & Mr. Hoffman2 what he said was addressed to both & was purely intended without offence to either to prevent the continuance of a controversy which might lead to disturbance & riot.
Mr. Nicholson replied very harshly to Mr. Hamilton that he was not the man to prevent his quarrelling called him an Abettor of Tories and used some other harsh expressions which are forgotten.
Mr. Hamilton replied that that was not a place for altercation & Mr. Nicholson & he would discuss it upon a more fit occasion.
Mr. Nicholson replied he & Mr. Hamilton would not pursue the affair for he had declined an interview upon a former occasion.
Mr. Hamilton replied that no man could affirm that with truth & that he pledged himself to convince Mr. Nicholson of his mistake.
Here then was clearly a violent offence without provocation.
If Mr. Nicholson is disposed to accommodation justice & propriety require that he should say
That the subject of offence to Mr. Hamilton was the effect of misapprehension & temporary passion—that he does not entertain the opinion which his declaration would seem to imply and that he regrets the pain which it must have given to Mr. Hamilton.
Mr. Nicholson declares that the expressions made use of by him in the first instance which appeared to give offence to Mr. Hamilton proceeded from a supposition that Mr. Hamilton had interposed in favour of Mr. Hoffman and in a manner that implied censure on him —that understanding from Mr. Hamilton that he dropped some expressions which indicated that Mr. Hamilton had declined an interview upon a former similar occasion Mr. Nicholson further declares that he is not conscious nor can he recollect that such expressions dropped [from] him—that however relying on the information he has since received that expressions of such import did escape him he declares that they proceeded from the heat of altercation—that he does not entertain the opinion which they seemed to imply and that he regret[s] the pain which his expressions upon the occasion must have given to Mr Hamilton.
Mr. Nicholson declares that the warmth of the expressions which he recollects to have used to Mr. Hamilton proceeded from a misapprehension of the nature of his interposition in the alter[c]ation between Mr. Hoffman & Mr. Nicholson that as to the suggestion alleged to have been made by Mr. Nicholson namely that Mr. Hamilton had declined a former interview he does not recollect and is not conscious of having made it neither did he intend the imputation which it would seem to imply and that if he did make the suggestion he regrets the pain which it must have occasionned to Mr. Hamilton.5
ADf, Columbia University Libraries.
1. For background to these three documents, see H to Nicholson, first letter of July 20, 1795, note 1.
After H and Nicholson had exchanged letters on July 22, 1795, the seconds whom each man had selected for the impending duel presumably met and, in an effort to avoid the duel, must have asked H to submit the kind of apology which he would accept from Nicholson. The three documents printed above are three drafts of such an apology. On July 26, 1795, the seconds presented H’s third draft to Nicholson. See note 5.
2. Josiah Ogden Hoffman.
3. ADf, Columbia University Libraries.
4. ADf, Columbia University Libraries.
5. On July 26, 1795, after H’s third draft of an apology had been submitted to Nicholson, Nicholas Fish, one of H’s seconds, wrote the following declaration for Nicholson: “Mr. Nicholson declares that the warmth of the expressions which he recollects to have used to Mr. Hamilton proceeded from a misapprehension of the nature of his interposition in the altercation between Mr. Hoffman & Mr. Nicholson that as to the suggestion alleged to have been made by Mr. Nicholson namely that Mr. Hamilton had declined a former interview he does not recollect and is not conscious of having made it, neither did he intend the imputation which it would seem to imply and that if he did make the suggestion he regrets the pain which it must have occasioned to Mr. Hamilton.
“Sunday Eveng. July 26th. 1795 The above declaration was made by Commodore Nicholson in presence of Mr. King, Mr. B. Livingston, Mr. Clinton & myself. N. F.” (ADS, Columbia University Libraries.) This statement was presumably shown to H, and after he approved it the following statement was made by the seconds for H and Nicholson: “The subscribers having been made acquainted with the correspondence between Mr Hamilton and Mr Nicholson relative to a controversy that took place between them on Saturday before last, do hereby certify that the same has been settled in a satisfactory and honorable way to both the parties.
New York 26 July 1795” (DS, in the handwriting of DeWitt Clinton, Columbia University Libraries).