Alexander Hamilton Papers
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From Alexander Hamilton to ———, [1796]

To ———1

[1796]2

Dear Sir:

Poor Duer has now had a long & severe confinement—Such as would be adequate for no trifling crime. I am well aware of all the blame to which he is liable and do not mean to be his apologist—though I believe he has been as much the dupe of his own imagination as others have been the victims of his projects. But what then? He is a man—he is a man with whom we have both been in habits of friendly intimacy—he is a man, who with a great deal of good zeal has in critical times rendered valuable services to the Country. He is a husband, who has a most worthy & amiable wife perishing with chagrin at his situation—Your relation by blood—mine by marriage. He is a father who has a number of fine children3 destitute of the means of education & support every way in need of his future exertions.

These are titles to sympathy, which I shall be mistaken if you do not feel. You are his creditor. Your example may influence others. He wants permission, through a letter of license to breathe the air for five years. Your signature to the enclosed draft of One will give me much pleasure.

Yrs.

AH

JCH Transcripts description begins John C. Hamilton Transcripts, Columbia University Libraries. description ends .

1This letter may have been addressed to Walter Livingston, for in the first paragraph H describes William Duer’s wife, Catharine, as “Your relation by blood—mine by marriage.” Livingston and Catharine Duer were cousins, as Livingston’s father, Robert, and Catharine Duer’s mother, Sarah, were the children of Philip and Catrina Van Brugh Livingston. H was Catharine Duer’s cousin by marriage, for Elizabeth Hamilton and Livingston’s wife, Cornelia Schuyler Livingston, were cousins. Elizabeth Hamilton’s father, Philip Schuyler, and Cornelia Livingston’s mother, Gertrude, were the children of John and Cornelia Van Cortlandt Schuyler. See Florence Van Rensselaer and William Laimbeer, The Livingston Family in America and Its Scottish Origins (New York, 1949), and Don R. Gerlach, Philip Schuyler and the American Revolution in New York: 1733–1777 (Lincoln, Nebraska, 1964), 314.

2In JCHW description begins John C. Hamilton, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1851–1856). description ends , V, 546–47, and therefore in JCH Transcripts description begins John C. Hamilton Transcripts, Columbia University Libraries. description ends , this letter is dated August, 1793. The text of the letter, however, suggests a later date. In HCLW description begins Henry Cabot Lodge, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1904). description ends , X, 49, this letter is also dated August, 1793, but Henry Cabot Lodge adds as a footnote: “I give this letter as dated in the edition of 1850 [JCHW description begins John C. Hamilton, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1851–1856). description ends ], where it is misplaced, but its language would suggest a later period, somewhat near the end of Duer’s confinement in 1797.” Joseph Stancliffe Davis suggests that this letter was written in 1796 or 1797 (Davis, Essays in the Earlier History of American Corporations [“Harvard Economic Studies,” XVI (Cambridge, 1917)], I, 330). As Duer, who had been imprisoned for debt on March 23, 1792, was released from debtors’ prison for a short time in 1797 at H’s intercession, H probably wrote this letter in late 1796 or early 1797.

For Walter Livingston’s business relations with Duer, see Livingston to H, January 29, 1795, note 6.

3William and Catharine Duer had eight children. See Van Rennsselaer and Laimbeer, The Livingston Family, 99.

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