Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from James Butler, 1 December 1795

From James Butler1

Alexandria [Virginia] 1st. Xbr. 1795


(Tho’ I have not the honour of your acquaintance) I shall take the liberty of addressing you, to inform you of the real pleasure & satisfaction it gives me to read your Explanation in favour of the Ilustrious President.2 And to inform you of Some of his Charitable donations—I mean What came Within my knowledge, which I am Sure are but trifling if compar’d With the imense Charities he bestows, that none besides himself, & the many Objects that receive them, know’s.

He pays £ 50per annum for the Tuition of twenty Orphans at the Accademy in Alexandria,3 if any of his Overseers die he will give the Widows A house & garden & grass for their Cows &c—if any of his Domestics or Slaves get Sick he Will Visit ’em, & Send for a doter if requisite; his house is always open for travellers & strangers & Will give them money to support them to their journey’s End. I livd with him as Overseer for two years; three months of which I was confin’d to my bed, & room, With a Violent feavr Not able to render him the Smallest Service. (Notwithstanding) he paid my Salary in full; & paid for my board for three months, & ’till I was able to teach in the Accademy. (In Short Sir) there is not A better mind’d or more humane Man on Earth. (thank god) his Charactr. is too Well known To be hurt by any Spurious, envenom’d Reptile that Wrote again him; their malice now falls in their own dirt.

Pardon this liberty I take With you, which flows, from the real regard, & good Wishes I have for him, Of My Esteem for you, on Acct. of your just & candid explanation Which I duly read With real joy & Satisfaction. I have the honor Sir of being your most obt hble. Servt.

Jams. Butler

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Butler had been Washington’s overseer at Mount Vernon in 1793 and 1794. As early as May, 1793, Washington was dissatisfied with Butler’s services, and on May 19, 1793, the President wrote to Anthony Whiting, his plantation manager: “If Mr. Butler is the kind of man you describe him to be, he certainly can be of no use to me—and sure I am, there is no obligation for me to retain him from charitable motives; when he ought rather to be punished as an imposter: for he well knew the Services he had to perform, & which he promised to fulfil with zeal, activity & intelligence” (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress).

Although William Pearce, Washington’s new plantation manager, hired Butler for 1794, the President had decided by August, 1794, to release Butler at the end of his current term (Washington to Pearce, August 3, 1794 [ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress]).

3On June 14, 1795, Washington wrote to Pearce: “By the last Post, I received the enclosed letter from James Butler. I wish you to let him know (& as soon as you conveniently can, that he may be under no mistake in the case) that he must look to those who placed him where he is—(if they think him qualified for the Office—) for his money; not a copper will he receive from me. I allow £50 pr. Annum to the Academy in Alexandria for the purpose of instructing the children of poor persons who are unable to be at that expence themselves, but I have nothing to do with providing, or paying the Master who is employed for this purpose. This is left to the Trustees of the School …” (ALS, letterpress copy, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress; see also GW description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington (Washington, 1931–1944). description ends , XXXIV, 214).

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