Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Thomas Freeman, [9 January 1800]

From Thomas Freeman1

[Philadelphia, January 9, 1800]


Having left the public works at Loftus’s-Heights previous to the return of General Wilkinson to that country,2 and not having had the pleasure of meeting him here, on my arrival; I trust Sir, you will excuse the liberty I take in trespassing on your time for a moment.

It is I presume known to you, that at the earnest solicitation of General Wilkinson I plan’d and superintended a work at Loftus’s-Heights on the river Mississippi, which was by him named Fort Adams; a rough Plan with sections &c thereof he took with him when he left that place last summer for Philadelphia. When I had prepared the plan, traced it on the ground, and raised one Angle as a specimen of the work, I suggested to the General my intention to proceed to Philadelphia on public business which was to me very interesting, but, the General having himself received orders at the same time to repair to Philada—he represented to me in strong terms the necessity of my remaining at the Heights and superintending the works & hands employ’d thereon, at least until his return; however, should I, in his absence receive orders from the Secretary of State to return to Philada, he advised me by all means to go on; he at the same time wrote an official letter to me on the subject of the public works a copy of his letter and my answer3 I take the liberty herewith to transmit. The General proceeded for philada and I continued my charge of the works & hands employ’d thereon. Early in August last I receiv’d a letter from the Secretary of State, directing me to return to Philadelphia.4 I immediately proceeded to make such arrangements and disposition of the Works committed to my care, as I deemed requisite to enable those who had to take charge of them in my absence, to carry them on without interruption; and thence proceeded on my Journey for this place, where I arrived a few weeks ago.

I had the pleasing gratification on my arrival here, to meet with a polite and friendly reception from the Secretary of State; and the strongest assurance from him, that my conduct, in my late appointment, under the Spanish Treaty, met with his full approbation.

Having at the request of General Wilkinson consented to complete the works which I had plan’d & commenced, and also souch other works as by the President, or Commander in chief might be deemed proper to be erected there (Should I be appointed for that purpose) and having been called from thence, as above mentioned, without the knowledge of General Wilkinson, I take the liberty of thus troubling you, Sir. And request the favor of you to inform me, whether it was determined, or understood, previous to the General’s departure, from hence, that, I should superintend the public works at Loftus’s-Heights.

Pardon this intrusion. Be it my excuse that having had reason to expect that appointment, and, knowing that time aught not to be lost in repairing thither—and, may I add, my ambition to complete a work which I had commenced, and which I flatter myself will satisfactorily answer the end proposed, are my motives.

I have the Honor to be   With due respect, Sir.   Your Obedient Servant

Thos. Freeman

His Excellency
General Hamilton
New York

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1On May 24, 1796, the Senate approved the nomination of “Andrew Ellicott, of Pennsylvania, to be the Commissioner; and Thomas Freeman, of the District of Columbia, to be the Surveyor, on the part of the United States, to run and mark the southern boundary of the United States, which divides their territory from the Spanish colonies of East and West Florida; agreeably to the second and third articles of the treaty of friendship, limits, and navigation between the United States and his Catholic Majesty [Pinckney’s Treaty]” (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 210, 211).

2For James Wilkinson’s trip to New York City, see H to George Washington, September 23, 1799. Wilkinson did not reach Natchez, Mississippi Territory, on his return trip until February 22, 1800 (Wilkinson to H, February 25, 1800).

3Wilkinson to Freeman, April 26, 1799 (copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress); Freeman to Wilkinson, April 26, 1799 (copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress).

4Timothy Pickering to Freeman, May 20, 1799 (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 11, June 30, 1798–June 29, 1799, National Archives). In this letter Pickering discussed the charges and countercharges by Freeman and Ellicott and stated: “… In the present situation of matters, it is impossible to investigate the truth. One thing however is certain, That you cannot render any service to the public in the line in which you were engaged; Mr. Ellicot having refused to serve with you, by discharging you from the company, and thus putting it out of your power to execute the office of surveyor. The business will be finished, before an examination & decision, on the facts be proved, could take place. It will therefore be well for you to consider it, as at least uncertain whether your pay can be continued for a longer time after Mr. Ellicot discharged you than would be reasonable for travelling home. For it was pretty evident, at that time, that Mr. Ellicot however reprehensible you might deem his conduct, could not be withdrawn; and it was perfectly clear that you could not serve together. Under such circumstances, it would have seemed to me proper for you to have returned home, without any unnecessary delay; unless you intended to take a new residence on the banks of the Mississippi; and then the result, as to your compensation, would have been not materially changed. In saying thus much, I desire you to understand that I form no conclusion on the merits of the question between you and Mr. Ellicot.”

Ellicott accused Freeman of being “an idle, lying, troublesome, discontented, mischief-making man” and “one of the greatest rascals and liars in existance … [who] has done everything in his power to put a stop to our business …” (Ellicott to Sarah Ellicott, his wife, November 8, 1798, January 10, 1799, in Catharine Van Cortlandt Mathews, Andrew Ellicott: His Life and Letters [New York, 1908], 160, 164). See also Pickering to Ellicott, October 4, 1798 (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 11, June 30, 1798–June 29, 1799, National Archives); Pickering to Winthrop Sargent, May 20, 1799 (ALS, letterpress copy, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston; LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 11, June 30, 1798–June 29, 1799, National Archives). On July 28, 1801, Richard Harrison, the auditor of the Treasury Department, determined that the balance due to Freeman was $2,229.92 (DS, RG 217, Miscellaneous Treasury Accounts, 1790–1894, Account No. 12498, National Archives). This sum included $375 for “Three Months pay allowed for returning home.”

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