Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Maturin Livingston, [18 January 1796]

To Maturin Livingston1

[New York, January 18, 1796]


I have been informed that not long since at Philadelphia, in presence of a number of persons, you made mention of the altercation which happened between us on the Eighteenth of July last,2 and by direct comments or insinuations endeavoured to convey the idea that I had acted with want of spirit on that occasion. I owe it to myself to inquire of you what foundation, if any, there may be for this information. In a matter of this delicacy, you will be no doubt sensible of the propriety of explicitness; that it may be clearly understood whether there was any intention on your part directly or indirectly to throw such an imputation upon me.

I am Sir   Your humble serv

Maturin Livingston Esqr

ADf, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Livingston, a New York lawyer, was the brother of Peter R. Livingston and son of Robert James Livingston, who was descended from a nephew of the original lord of Livingston Manor. His wife, Margaret Lewis, was the daughter of Morgan Lewis and a niece of Chancellor Robert R. Livingston and his brother Edward Livingston.

2The incident to which H is referring is described in the following letter from Edward Livingston to his mother, Margaret Beekman Livingston, on July 20, 1795: “… Nothing can equal the Vexation of the tory party on discovering that their favorite leader [H] had lost his influence except the indecency with which the leader testified his Mortification—in the afternoon of Saturday a number of gentlemen of [both] parties accidentaly stopped at my Door. We entered into Conversation on the politics of the Day, at first cooly and afterwards with some Warmth between Peter [Peter R. Livingston] & Jo. [Josiah Ogden] Hoffman. It at last grew personal & Mr. [Rufus] King, myself and others interposed begging that if there were any personal disputes they might be settled elsewhere. Hamilton then stepped forward declaring that if the parties were to contend in a personal Way, he was ready that he would fight the Whole party one by one. I was just beginning to speak to him on the Subject [of] this imprudent declaration when he turned from me threw up his arm & Declared that he was ready to fight the Whole ‘Destestable faction’ one by one. — Maturin [Livingston] at this moment arrived, he stepped up to him told him very cooly that he was one of the party that he accepted the challenge & would meet him in half an hour where he pleased. Hamilton said he had an affair on his Hands already with one of the party (meaning a quarrel with Commodore Nicholson) & when that was settled he would call on him. Neither Nicholson nor Maturin have as yet heard from him. I mention this Circumstance particularly that you may Judge how much he must be Mortified at his loss of Influence before he would descend [to] language that would have become a Street Bully” (ALS, New-York Historical Society, New York City). For H’s quarrel with James Nicholson, see the first letter from H to Nicholson, July 20, 1795, note 1.

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