Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Caleb Gibbs, 24 October 1799

To Caleb Gibbs

New York October 24. 1799


I have received your very improper letter of the 30th. of September.1 This is not the first instance of my life in which good offices on my part have met with an ill return.

When you were informed, that The Commander in Chief (who, aided by General Pinckney & myself, made in the first instance the nomination of Officers for the twelve Regiments) had presented your name for the place of Lt Col Commandant,2 you had an explanation of what I meant, when I wrote to you3 that your disappointment had not proceeded from want of friendship in General washington or myself. What could I do more than cooperate in your nomination to the President? This I did and with great cordiality. What agency can I be supposed to have had after this? Evidently whatever happened subsequently is as foreign to me as to General Washington.4

Tis therefore as curious as it is unbecoming to interrogate me in a premptory and even censorious manner about the causes which may have induced the President to reject the nomination. It is true that collaterally and after the thing was determined upon, I heard what they were, but it was in a manner which did not leave me at liberty to explain to you. This I before hinted, and you must on reflection see the impropriety of your having addressed me on the subject as you have done. It is very certain that you never can nor will have an explanation from me on the point.

If any one has wickedly endeavoured to make you believe that there has been any thing uncandid or unfriendly in my conduct, you ought to dispise the author of such an attempt to impose on your understanding. If you have inferred it from the reserve in my mode of writing to you on the subject, you formed as false an estimate of what the delicacy of my situation required, as you did of my true character.

I am Sir   Yr. humble ser

Caleb Gibbs Esq

ADf, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Letter not found. Gibbs had written to H on three occasions asking for assistance in securing a commission. See Gibbs to H, January 21 (listed in the appendix to Volume XXII), April 25, June 10, 1799 (listed in the appendix to this volume).

3Letter not found.

4For H and McHenry’s opinion of Gibbs, see H to McHenry, February 6, 1799; McHenry to H, February 8, 1799. For George Washington’s involvement in Gibb’s application, see Washington to McHenry, March 25, 1799 (ALS, letterpress copy, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress); Gibbs to Washington, April 21, 1799 (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress; copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress); Washington to McHenry, April 23, 1799 (ALS, letterpress copy, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress); Washington to Gibbs, May 5, 1799 (ALS, letterpress copy, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress).

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