Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Gouverneur Morris, [29 February 1802]

To Gouverneur Morris

[New York, February 29, 1802]1

My Dr. Sir

Your letter of the 22d is the third favour for which I am indebted to you since you left N York.2

Your frankness in giving me your opinion as to the expediency of an application of our bar to Congress3 obliges me. But you know we are not readily persuaded to think we have been wrong. Were the matter to be done over I should pursue the same course. I did not believe the measure would be useful as a preventative, and for the people an expression of an opinion by letter would be as good as in a memorial. It appeared to me best because it saved our delicacy and because in the abstract I am not over fond of the precedent of the bar addressing Congress. But I did what I thought likely to do more good—I induced the Chamber of Commerce to send a memorial.4

As to the rest, I should be a very unhappy man, if I left my tranquillity at the mercy of the misinterpretations which friends as well as foes are fond of giving to my conduct.

Mine is an odd destiny. Perhaps no man in the UStates has sacrificed or done more for the present Constitution than myself—and contrary to all my anticipations of its fate, as you know from the very begginning I am still labouring to prop the frail and worthless fabric. Yet I have the murmurs of its friends no less than the curses of its foes for my rewards. What can I do better than withdraw from the Scene? Every day proves to me more and more that this American world was not made for me.

The suggestions with which you close your letter suppose a much sounder state of the public mind than at present exists. Attempts to make a show of a general popular dislike of the pending measures of the Government would only serve to manifest the direct reverse. Impressions are indeed making but as yet within a very narrow sphere. The time may ere long arrive when the minds of men will be prepared to make an offer to recover the Constitution, but the many cannot now be brought to make a stand for its preservation. We must wait awhile.

I have read your speech⟨es⟩ with great pleasure.5 They are truly worthy of you. Your real friends had many sources of satisfaction on account of them. The conspiracy of Dulness was at work. It chose to misinterpret your moderation in certain transactions of a personal reference. A public energetic display of your talents and principles was requisite to silence the Cavillers. It is now done. You, friend Morris, are by birth a native of this Country but by genius an exotic. You mistake if you fancy that you are more a favourite than myself or that you are in any sort upon a theatre s⟨uited⟩ to you.

Adieu   Yrs. ever


ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1In JCHW description begins John C. Hamilton, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1851–1856). description ends , VI, 529–30, HCLW description begins Henry Cabot Lodge, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1904). description ends , X, 425–26, and Hamilton, History description begins John C. Hamilton, Life of Alexander Hamilton, a History of the Republic of the United States of America (Boston, 1879). description ends , VII, 553–54, this letter is dated February 27, 1802.

2Morris left New York on December 8, 1801, and arrived in Washington on December 18 to take his seat in the Senate.

The first and second letters to which H is referring have not been found.

4On February 11, 1802, at a special meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of New York City, James Watson moved that a memorial be sent to the House of Representatives “praying that the late judiciary act may not be repealed” (MS Minutes [photostat] of the New York Chamber of Commerce, Vol. I, Part 2, 496, New York Public Library). The motion was approved, and a memorial was sent to Samuel L. Mitchell, a member of the House of Representatives from New York City, who presented it to the House on February 16, 1802 (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and all the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , XI, 522). The text of this memorial reads: “That your memorialists have observed with much disquietude and alarm, the Progress of a Bill through the senate for repealing the Act of the last session entitled ‘an act to provide for the more convenient organization of the Courts of the United States.’ That, abstracted from all considerations respecting the Constitutionality of the measure, of viewing it merely in its relations to the administration of Justice, in cases which grow out of commercial transactions—your memorialists entertain a strong persuation of its impolicy and inexpediency; and verily believe that if the pending Bill shall pass into a law, it will have a tendency iminently injurious, in the first place to the mercantile interest of the County, and eventually to every other interest connected with the prosperity of trade.

“Perhaps no part of the constitution of the United States has had a more direct and salutary influence upon the trading interest of these states than the provisions which respect the judiciary department; owing to the confidence which they are calculated to inspire in commercial dealings as well between foreigners and citizens as between the Citizens of different States. To carry this advantage to its full extent, and to render it, permanent, it is evidently essential, that the organization of the Federal Judiciary shall be such as to embrace all the cases to which it is competent, and such as to ensure in practice the prompt determination of controversies. That the former system did not answer this description is believed to have been fully evinced by experience; That the last will serve to remedy several of the most material defects of that system appears to be deductible from very obvious considerations; And consequently that there ought not to be a return to the former imperfect and insufficient plan, or the substitution of any other which will contract the agency of the national Judiciary, is conceived by your Memorialists to be dictated by reasons too cogent to be disregarded without serious public inconvenience and injury: Far more eligible would it be in their judgment to adopt measures for increasing the activity of the existing Federal Courts, so as to promote a still greater dispatch of business in those courts. This it may be expected would contribute not a little to accelerate the administration of Justice. Generally, throughout the union, and to obviate objections which have arisen from the disproportion of expense to business.

“Your memorialists trust that their interposition, in a case which in their conception immediately concerns the welfare of Commerce, will not be thought officious or improper, & respectfully submitting their opinions & wishes to the consideration of your Honorable Body, they cherish a strong confidence that your final determination will be guided by a Calm, enlightened and comprehensive view of the true interests of our Country.” (MS Minutes [photostat] of the New York Chamber of Commerce, Vol. I, Part 2, 496–98, New York Public Library.)

5On January 8 and 14, 1802, Morris delivered speeches in the Senate against the repeal of the Judiciary Act of 1801 (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and all the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , 36–41, 76–92).

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