Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to James A. Bayard, 22 February 1801

To James A. Bayard1

Albany Feby. 22nd 1801

Dear Sir.

After my ill success hitherto, I ought perhaps in prudence to say nothing further on the subject. But situated as things now are I certainly have no advice to give. Yet I may without impropriety communicate a fact. It is this—Colonel Burr is taking an active personal part in favour of Mr Clinton against Mr Rensselaer as Governor of this State.2 I have upon my honor direct & indubitable evidence that between two & three weeks past, he wrote a very urgent letter to Oliver Phelps3 of the Western parts of this State, to induce his exertions in favour of Clinton. Is not this an unequivocal confirmation of what I predicted, that he will in every event continue to play the Jacobin Game? Can anything else explain his conduct at such a moment & under such circumstances? I might add several other things to prove that he is resolved to adhere to & cultivate his old party, who lately more than ever have shewn the cloven foot of Rank Jacobinism.   Yrs with esteem


LC, MS Division, New York Public Library.

1In JCHW description begins John C. Hamilton, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1851–1856). description ends , VI, 521, and HCLW description begins Henry Cabot Lodge, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1904). description ends , X, 423, no addressee is given for this letter.

2The gubernatorial campaign in New York State began on November 8, 1800, when Republican members of the state legislature met in Albany and nominated George Clinton, the former governor who had served six terms, for governor. On February 13, 1801, another caucus of Republican legislators met in Albany to confirm Clinton’s nomination and to choose Jeremiah Van Rensselaer as the party’s candidate for lieutenant governor (The Albany Register, February 17, 1801; [New York] American Citizen and General Advertiser, February 24, 1801).

At a caucus held in Albany on January 28, 1801, Federalists chose Stephen Van Rensselaer, the incumbent lieutenant governor, as the candidate for governor. On February 3, a similar caucus chose James Watson, a New York City lawyer and merchant who had served in the New York Senate from 1796 to 1798, as the candidate for lieutenant governor (The Albany Register, February 6, 1801; The [New York] Spectator, February 11, April 4, 1801).

The gubernatorial election took place on April 28, 29, and 30, 1801, and Clinton won by a majority of nearly 4,000 votes out of a total of 45,651 votes cast. For complete election returns by counties, see The [New York] Spectator, June 10, 1801.

On May 10, 1801, George Cabot wrote to Rufus King: “We are anxious for New York where Hamilton has made great & brilliant efforts in favor of Rensselaer; our reports are favorable but by no means satisfactory” (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, 445).

3Phelps, who is best known for his part in the Phelps-Gorham purchase in New York (H to Robert Morris, March 18, 1795, note 29) had moved from Massachusetts to the Genesee country in upstate New York in 1796.

On February 10, 1801, Aaron Burr wrote to Phelps: “You have heard of the Nomination of George Clinton for Governor at the next election. No person has yet been finally agreed on as Lieut. Governor; but the Minds of our friends seem generally to be turned toward you. In the Western Country in particular, the Republicans are unanimous and zealous in your favor and it is highly important that we have a Man who will be acceptable in that quarter—for my own part, I entertain no doubt of your success, and I think that your assent to serve will tend much to secure the election of George Clinton. Under such Circumstances I am persuaded you will not resist the wishes of your friends. If you should decline, it will be taken ill, and it will embarrass us. We have had some conversation with regard to a similar Object—that of Senator—the reasons then urged, apply more strongly on the present occasion. I hope to receive a line from you saying that you submit to be disposed of as your friends may judge to be most for the general interest.

“I am not authorised to make this overture in the Name of the party. It would not do, publickly to nominate you, untill your assent was ascertained—but I have conferred with a Number of leading Men who concur with me in the Object & at whose request I write. For further particulars, I refer you to Major [Ozias] Danforth.” (ALS, from the original in the New York State Library, Albany.)

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