From William Jackson1
Philadelphia August 5. 1797
My dear Sir,
Immediately on the receipt of your Letter this morning,2 I waited on Colonel Monroe and observing that “Colonel Hamilton considering your letter3 as an overture to a personal meeting, has directed me to deliver this letter from him to you4—and I have further to inform you that I am prepared to give effect to the purpose of his letter.”
Mr. Monroe received the letter, and then asked me if it was a challenge. I told him that propriety, in every relation, forbad me to say that I was the Bearer of a challenge—the letter would explain its purport. He then returned the letter to me, and said he would consult a friend.5
I desired him to attend the message, which I would repeat, as stated within the inverted commas, On which he requested me to lay down the letter, and as soon as he had consulted with his friend, he would give an answer either to you or myself. Here we parted. By to-morrow’s post I may be able to give you the result of his determination.
I have delivered the other paper to Mr. Jones.6
Accept my congratulations on the birth of your Son7—and always believe me
ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
1. For background to this letter, see the introductory note to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., to H, July 3, 1797; Jackson to H, July 24, 25, 31, 1797.
2. Letter not found.
5. On August 6, 1797, Monroe wrote to Aaron Burr: “I enclose you a copy of my correspondence with Colo. Hamilton since my return to this city which I hope you will immediately peruse. I send likewise a letter to him in reply to his last which after reading & sealing I wish you to present him. I have written this last letter as you will perceive to demd. whether he meant his as a direct challenge on his part or as the acceptance of one on mine (the latter being the idea of Major Jackson), or of an invitation on my part. If the former be the case, then you will accept it of course. If the latter then the expln. which I give ends the affr., as I never meant to give him a challenge, on acct. of what has passed between us, seeing no cause so to do; having conceded nothing wh. as a man of honor and truth I ought not: and in this stile following his example, especially when our interview at New York is also notic’d: an example however which ought not to have been given.
“If the affr. takes the first course, then time must be given me on acct. of my publication, the adjustment of my family affrs. &c having been long absent and they requiring much attention, especially when it is considered that in case of accident I shod. leave Mrs. M. almost friendless in Virga., she being of New York. For the whole of this abt. three months wod. be necessary—two wod. be for the publication only. The place I shod. wish to be abt. or near the Susquehannah, but on this head I shod. not be vigorous. As you have a child & a familly I wod. not trouble you unless in yr. neighbourhood, but shall calculate on the aid of Mr. Dawson. However tis probable I shod. be forced to ask yr. aid, ⟨– –⟩ much confidence in you.
“You will explain to him, if he asks expln., why I referr’d him to you and did not adjust it with Major Jackson, that I supposed it wod. be more agreable to him to have you authorized to represent me fully in the affr. for the purpose of closing it at once with him on the spot: and that to me it was an object of importance, since being much occupied in other concerns and meaning soon to leave town, I wished to have my time & mind free from interruption.
“I hope you will settle this disagreeable affr. finally so that we write no more either to the other on it. Nor need I observe that as I have entire confidence in your judgment, honor and friendship for me, so I equally confide that you will close it in such a manner, as duly observing that a certain result, ought always to be avoided, whilst it can with propriety, especially by a person with a family, yet it is not to be avoided by the slightest sacrifice or condescention.
“If the affr. takes an amicable issue, and he enters into conversation on the publication &c afterwards then you may hint to him that if he chuses, you think all the letters between him & me had better be suppress’d or not published in his publication: since they certainly weaken the ground of Muhlenburg’s & my letter to him, wh. was written in a spirit of conciliation, as well as of truth. In that case too he may make his inferences from that as he pleases for we never mean to say a word on the subject, if he does not attack us. Indeed I was never averse to the simple question ‘did you mean to give any opinion of yr. own as to the credibility due to the entry bearing your single signature’? to answer ‘that I did not but meant it to stand on the credibility of the man.’ This wod. have been perhaps of some service to him, ⟨– –⟩ never asked it, always endeavouring to get more from me than in conscience, I cod. give. Nor shod. I now hesitate (provided you approved it) after the affr. is settled (if settled amicably) to give such an answer to such a question; observing that the affr. be first settled, before any other ⟨–⟩.
“I am satisfied he is pushed on by his party friends here, who to get rid of me, wod. be very willing to hazard him. Of this I have many reasons to be well assured of.
“In truth I have no desire to persecute this man, tho’ he justly merits it, and except giving a certificate to what in truth I cod. not, did not from the first moment of my arrival care, how favorable the affr. appeard for him. I had no hand in the publication, was sorry for it—and think he has acted, by drawing the publick attention to it, & makeing it an affr. of more consequence than it was in itself, very indiscreetly. And in case he manages his defense so as to make Muhlenburg Venable & myself, become his accusers in our own defense he loses the benefit of our certificate &c. However this is between ourselves.…” (ALS, Lloyd W. Smith Collection, Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, New Jersey.)
See also Monroe to H, July 25, 1797, note 4.
7. William Stephen Hamilton was born on August 4, 1797.