Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from John Foncin, 28 October 1803

From John Foncin1

New-york 28th. October 1803.


Having been favored by General Lafayette with a letter for you,2 I greatly desired to present you my respects; and indeed I was very much disapointed, when I did hear at your country house that you were absent.3 however as I come again in this country, with a firm resolution never to return to Europa,4 I hope that I Shall have the honor to be once introduced to you; and as I have Served with zeal the united States, while I have built the forts of Baltimore and Boston, under the qualification of a Colonel, I hope that the hon. Secretary of war will again give me Some employment; especially my desire of being useful having induced me to carry from France the whole instruction which belongs to the line of an Engineer. But I want recommendations; and as not one in the military Business may have So great an influence as yours, Sir, I instantly beg this distinguished favor. if you be So Kind as to grant it to me, I Shall be very Happy to receive your letter at Mr. Francis Breuil’s at Philadelphia.5 This Gentleman will know my direction at washington, where I design to go on next week.

I am with great respect   Sir   your most humble and obedient Servant

John Foncin

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1On December 9, 1800, Foncin, a French engineer who was working on the batteries at Fort Independence on Castle Island in Boston Harbor, submitted a plan to the War Department for the completion of the fortifications on the island. On May 1, 1801, Secretary of War Henry Dearborn gave permission to Foncin to proceed with his plan. On June 24 Foncin reported to Dearborn on the progress of the work on Castle Island and stated that because of difficulties in his work arising from his lack of rank, he wished to be appointed a colonel in the Army. Although no record of Foncin’s commission has been found, he appears as a colonel in subsequent correspondence with the War Department. On January 18, 1802, he requested a transfer to Washington and a position “in arranging and keeping order Mily Archives,” and on December 22 Dearborn instructed Foncin “to suspend any further expense at Fort Independence.” Although Dearborn offered him a position in North Carolina working on a fortification near Wilmington, Foncin declined the appointment unless he could receive a permanent appointment (RG 107, Records of the Office of Secretary of War, Registers of Letters Received, Main Series, 1800–1870, Vol. 1, 1800, 1802, Nos. 4, 37, 94, 101, 102, 103, 133, Vol. 2, 1803–1806, No. 10, National Archives; Dearborn to Foncin, January 23, March 26, April 21, 22, 23, May 1, December 11, 1801, February 2, 23, June 14, July 5, 27, October 18, December 22, 1802, March 16, 1803 [LC, RG 107, Records of the Office of the Secretary of War, Miscellaneous Letters Sent by the Secretary of War, 1800–1809, Vol. 1A, 1800–1803, National Archives]).

2Letter not found.

3See H to Elizabeth Hamilton, October 14, 22, 27, 1803.

4Some time after April 1, 1803, Foncin had returned to France (Foncin to Dearborn, April 1, 1803 [RG 107, Records of the Office of Secretary of War, Registers of Letters Received, Main Series, 1800–1870, Vol. 2, 1803–1806, No. 14, National Archives]), and he returned to the United States during October of the same year (Marquis de Lafayette to Thomas Jefferson, September 1, 1803 [ALS, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress]).

5Breuil was a Philadelphia merchant and shipowner.

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