Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Richard Peters, 29 December 1802

To Richard Peters1

New York December 29 1802

Dear Sir

A disappointed politician you know is very apt to take refuge in a Garden. Accordingly I have purchased about thirty acres nine miles from Town, have built a house, planted a garden, and entered upon some other simple improvements.2

In this new situation, for which I am as little fitted as Jefferson to guide the helm of the UStates, I come to you as an Adept in rural science for instruction. The greatest part of my little farm will be dedicated to Grass. The soil is a sandy loam, in which there is rather too large a dose of Sand. Yet every thing has hitherto thriven well.

What will be my best plan as to the raising of Grass and what kinds ought I to prefer; and what season for sowing the seed? You have heard that on Long Island the plaister of Paris3 has absolutely failed and that on this Island its success is very problematical. Yet in my neighbourhood it has been lately tried with some success; and an opinion is growing that if applied in a pretty smart shower of rain, it will answer the purpose. The rain is supposed to purify the air of the sea salts which are believed to be the obstacle to the salutary operation of the Gypsum. What say you to all this? What mode of experiment would you prescribe?

It has been mentioned to me that you have in your quarter a species of red clover, the stock of which is less coarse than ours, and the quality very good. If this be so, and you think well of it, you will oblige me by procuring & sending me a couple bushels of the seed. In asking such favours you will please to understand that I insist upon being informed how much any articles sent me, whether more or less, shall cost. For it is too much to draw upon the time and pockets too of our friends.

Adieu My Dear Sir. Mrs. Hamilton joins in high compliments to Mrs. Peters.

Yrs. truly


R Peters Esq

ALS, Harvard College Library.

1Peters, a lawyer from Philadelphia, was secretary of the Board of War from 1776 to 1781 with a few interruptions, a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly from 1787 to 1790, a member of the state Senate from 1791 to 1792, and United States judge for the District of Pennsylvania from 1792 until his death in 1828.

Peters was also a farmer who experimented with scientific farming methods. He was the first president of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, which was founded in 1785, and he was the author of more than one hundred articles on agriculture (Memoirs of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture [Philadelphia, 1808–1939]).

2H is referring to his country house, the Grange, which he built between 1800 and 1802 in upper Manhattan. See the introductory note to Philip Schuyler to H, July 17, 1800.

3Peters was the author of Agricultural enquiries on plaister of Paris. Also facts observations and conjectures on that substance, when applied as manure. Collected chiefly from the practice of farmers in Pennsylvania, and published as much with a view to incite as to give information (Philadelphia: Printed by C. Cist, 1797).

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