From Rufus King
London Mar 22 17991
War is again declared by france agt. the temporising cabinet of vienna,2 and this has been the signal for Prussia to resume her former System of insecure neutrality.
We may every hour expect the Result of a Battle between Jourdan & the arch duke who according to our last accounts were respectively advancing upon each other3—the first Blow has been unfortunate for the allies, the whole of the austrian Corps (5000) at coire in the country of the Grisons having fallen into the Hands of the french commanded by Massena.4 I wish that I felt more confident that this first success would not be followed by more important victories. The 25000 Russians who were some time in the neighbourhood of vienna are on their march for Italy where tomorrow an old Russian Officer is to command the combined armies.5
If Prussia with the north of Germany which together have an army of more than 300 000 Men, had joined heartily and honestly in the League agt. france, the Directory might have been shaken, but my Hopes are weaker than my fears with Regard to the partial and ill-joined Confederacy with which it is at present engaged. The Publication of ⟨the⟩6 Treaty of Campo formio,7 so disgraceful ⟨to⟩ the court of Vienna, will prove ⟨useful⟩ to the Directory, by confirming the Jeal⟨ousy⟩ of Prussia, and exciting Distrust of the Emperor8 throughout Germany, the interest & Safety of wh. was sacrificed by that Treaty.
ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; copy, New-York Historical Society, New York City.
1. This letter is incorrectly dated May 22, 1799, in JCHW description begins John C. Hamilton, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1851–1856). description ends , VI, 407; King, The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King description begins Charles R. King, ed., The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King (New York, 1894–1900). description ends , III, 18; and the copy in the New-York Historical Society, New York.
2. On March 12, 1799, France declared war on Austria. This news was reported in The [London] Times, March 19, 1799.
3. On March 22, 1799, The [London] Times reported: “Letters from Paris of the 16th, mention, that a very few days would probably determine in a great measure the fate of the campaign. General [Jean Baptiste] Jourdan’s object was to attack the Archduke’s army without delay.…” The anticipated battle occurred on March 25, 1799, at Stockach, and the Archduke Charles’s army repulsed the forces under Jourdan’s command.
4. On March 19, 1799, The [London] Times printed the following quotation from a French newspaper: “We joyfully announce a happy prelude of success on the part of our armies. A Courier just arrived from Switzerland brings intelligence that the troops under command of [André] Massena … have taken four thousand five hundred Austrians, together with the Commandant of Coire (Chur) the capital of the Grison Country; and all the Staff of that Army.” On March 22, 1799, The Times reported: “The loss of the Austrians was 5000 men.… There is no reason to doubt the truth of this statement.”
5. This is a reference to Aleksandr Vasilyevich Suvarov. On March 22, 1799, The [London] Times reported: “It is confirmed that General Suwarrow is to command the Austrian forces in Italy. He left Petersburgh on the 27th ult. for that purpose.”
6. The words within broken brackets have been taken from the copy.
7. The reference is to the Treaty of Campo Formio, October 17, 1797, which contained both secret and public articles. On March 22, 1799, The [London] Times reported: “At length the Treaty of Campo Formio between the Emperor and the French Republic is made known.… In this treaty the Emperor has betrayed the German Empire, and exposed it to all the aggressions and devastations which the war just commenced will not fail to bring with it.” See King to H, August 6–10, 1797, note 2.
8. Francis II of Austria, the Holy Roman Emperor.