For The Time Piece
[New York, May 22, 1798]
A most unprovoked & wanton attack upon me appeared in the Time pi[e]ce of yesterday under the signature of William Keteltas.1 Were this man as well known elsewhere as in his own state his attack would [be] treated with silent contempt. As it is, a very slight notice only can be taken of it. It is barely necessary to state that where he is known, the doubt is whether he is most madman or knave, that he is so contemptible as to have been the missionary of a party to go three hundred miles into the Western parts of this state, with saddle bags full of addresses to be distributed for an electioneering purpose,2 and that his present publication is replete with gross falshoods. By the allusion to Caesar and Brutus3 he plainly hints at assassination. Though his fears may be the only, it is not doubted that they will be a full security that he will not attempt to be the assassin. But while he is conscious that the worthlessness of his character renders it impossible to descend to his level he may be assured he will not find me unprepared to repel attack and that he is despised and defied.4
ADfS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; The [New York] Time Piece, May 25, 1798.
1. Keteltas was a New York lawyer and a Republican. For H’s earlier relations with Keteltas, see “Certificate on Robert Lenox,” January 11, 1796, note 1. The “unprovoked & wanton attack” to which H refers was written and signed by Keteltas and was printed in The Time Piece, May 21, 1798. Keteltas placed his principal emphasis on H’s alleged admiration of monarchy and his alleged hostility toward popular government.
2. In his attack on H in The Time Piece, May 21, 1798, Keteltas wrote: “… In conversation with you, at your house, a few days since on the subject of the late ass[ass]inating treatment I received in the dark, from four villains in the county of Herkimer, for exposing Mr Jay’s unrepublican conduct as respected the union, and in our own state in particular as the executive thereof, you was pleased to remark that you did not approve of personal violence; which in my mind was the result of fear, and not sincerity, from what followed. You attempted to palliate that conduct, by observing, I ought not to have opposed the administration as I did in the year 1796, or spoke my sentiments and circulated hand bills through the country descriptive of its conduct.”
3. After stating in his attack on H in The Time Piece that H had attempted to introduce a monarchical form of government at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Keteltas wrote: “… What renders these vile attempts in you peculiarly criminal and ungrateful is, that your infant years was the paternal and maternal care of the sons and daughters of America, who may say as did Cesar et too Brute, the first to plunge the dagger in their bosom and enslave them; but like Caesar you are ambitious, and for that ambition to enslave his country Brutus slew him; and are ambitious men less dangerous to American than Roman Liberty?”
4. On May 28, 1798, Keteltas wrote an open letter in reply to H’s letter. Keteltas’s letter, which is printed in The Time Piece, May 28, 1798, in large part reiterates the charges he made in The Time Piece on May 21, 1798. In addition, in The Time Piece, June 11, 1798, Keteltas wrote: “A Mr. [John W.] Patterson, clerk to Alexander Hamilton, having declared in public company, that I, the undersigned, would be murdered, I offer 500 dollars for the apprehension of the assassin, or his abettors, that may be given up to the justice of their country, to be treated as the law directs.”