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To Alexander Hamilton from Timothy Pickering, 8 April 1799

From Timothy Pickering1

Philadelphia April 8 1799.

Dear Sir, (private)

You doubtless know General Eustace much better than I do. He mentions your name, as well as Mr. Jays, as of persons whom he respects. The inclosed extract from his news-paper publications of last August give his picture of your friend Mr King.2 In the same series of papers he undertakes the vindication of Fulwar Skipwith,3 our late consul general at Paris, as an excellent patriot and an upright man. In his reproaches and in his vindication he is equally unfortunate.

These publications of Genl. Eustace he had cut out of the newspapers, and pasted the columns on the leaves of two books—old army lists of Great Britain. These he had lent me—one (containing a long letter addressed to me) at my request4—the other he sent me unasked. I have incautiously detained them too long—so that he intimated that he must come to Philaa. to demand them; suggesting at the same time, that he presumed an officer of the government would not refuse to return what had been lent him at his request.5 I returned one volume by the mail of the 5th instant,6 and the other by this day’s post addressed to him.7 I trouble you with this information, because he desired me to send them either to himself or to you; and because he is of so singular a character there is no foreseeing what use he will make of facts and circumstances seemingly of little or no consequence.

If you have not already seen these publications, he will probably put them into your hands. I will therefore just remark that I was surprized to hear, while at Trenton last autumn,8 that he had addressed a letter, or a series of letters, to me, on the affairs of France: this led me to request him to send them to me: for I did not take the newspapers of Mc.Lean & Lang.9 But I was equally surprized to see his exordium—the motive or pretext for addressing me—or perhaps more properly the introductory incident:10 That I had asked some questions & desired him to give me information, concerning the discipline & tactics of the French army, to great improvements in which, beyond any of their neighbours, I was disposed to ascribe in part their unexampled successes. His answers he says were very satisfactory to me: but proposed that I should commit my question to writing, that the information might be more full & accurate. This I have not done: for his verbal answers were so far from satisfactory, that I derived no information from him. His answer was substantially —That it was so long since he had served in the French army, and they had in the mean time made so many alterations in their military system, that he could tell me nothing about it!

I am dear sir,   truly & respectfully yours

T. Pickering.

General Hamilton.

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; ALS, letterpress copy, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.

1For background to this letter, see John Skey Eustace to H, October 27, November 3, 20, 1798.

2The enclosure, which is in Pickering’s handwriting, reads: “Extract from the publications of General Eustace, (under the signature of ‘An American Soldier,’) in the Gazette of [Archibald] McLean & [John] Lang of New-York, in 1798, about the month of August:

“Having recited a letter from Mr. [William Vans] Murray, minister of the U. S. at the Hague, relative to his (General E’s) arrest in Holland, & the endeavours of Mr. M. to procure his enlargement, for which Genl. E. pays him his tribute of gratitude, General Eustace adds—

“‘I shall not here contrast the dignified patronage, the cordial Sympathy, the sedulous energy of this minister, with the pettifogging quirks, the faithless profers of ‘faithful service,’ the treacherous negligence of another. I shall content myself with observing; that as our Constitution is virtually, if not expressly, Aristocratico-democratic, I could wish to see men of native respectability almost exclusively chosen to represent us abroad. There we can only be known by the patterns we exhibit: the Man of birth and early education, will do honour by doing Justice to the Man of our choice at home; the clod-bred Rustic will ever prove the obsequious lackey of foreign Lords; for very few exceptions will be found to the old rule of Horace:’

“‘“Quo semel est imbuta recens servabit adorem Testa dice.”’

“In another place General E. says—‘I promised, with due candour, to Mr. Murray, the prejudices long before excited in France, against the Chief of the Union; enhanced by the perfidy of Mr. [Rufus] King [United States Minister to Great Britain], in England; and then suspended by his’ (Mr. Murray’s) ‘dignified and unequivocal deportment.’” (Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.) These extracts are from an article by Eustace in The New-York Gazette and General Advertiser, August 24, 1798.

Eustace arrived in England in February, 1797, from France. In explaining the reasons for his exile, Eustace wrote: “To satisfy myself fully on the subject of my Exile, I immediately waited on the Minister of Police [Charles Cochon de Lapparent], with a Member of the Council of Ancients, to learn from him the reasons assigned by the Directory for this act of extreme rigor. I urged that, however recommendatory to me in England, the order, as it then appeared, might affect my reputation in other parts of Europe; and particularly in the United States. I added, that it would afflict me profoundly, should it create a belief, any where, that I had violated the laws of hospitality or of amity during my residence under the protection of the French Government. I shall give the reply he made me, in his own words. ‘I am, said the Minister, as much in the dark as yourself respecting the cause of your banishment; and it is for this reason, that I omit to execute the order in its full extent. Were you so notoriously culpable as to merit such treatment, your crimes should not, and would not, have escaped my vigilance. For some months past, not a single action, not a single expression of yours, has remained unknown to my office.… I now assure you … that every report of your conduct has evinced the most exemplary civic virtue.… A law exists, which authorizes the Directory to remove even unoffending strangers at ten leagues from Paris, to this law alone you are obnoxious; and by it alone shall I be governed in the present instance.…’ As I expressed a desire to embark for America, but to take England in my route, he applauded my intention of removing voluntarily from France …” (The New-York Gazette and General Advertiser, August 23, 1798). On February 22, 1797, Eustace wrote to King: “Having received a verbal order yesterday, said to be from the Duke of Portland [William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck] —‘to leave this capital within twenty-four hours, and the Kingdom as expeditiously as possible,’ I have to request your passport for Lisbon.… having been asked whether I knew a certain book, on a leaf of which was my name in print, (the contents or title of which were not shewn me), I thought proper to reply—That I did not feel it to consist either with my duty or my dignity to avow or deny it—on which answer, the sentence of exile was politely pronounced. The fact is, that the letters comprising the book in question were written ten months previous to the signing of the Treaty of Amity between the United States and Great Britain; they were not printed or published by me, and were not published for sale; they were written, dated and printed and the blanks filled up by a friend of mine; and though I would not condescendingly submit to any sort of examination by the Secretary [Thomas Carter] of a British Secretary of State, on any book or pamphlet printed at Paris, yet I tell you, Sir, whilst I tribute to those personages the kind of respect they merit from me” (John Skey Eustace, Exile of Major General Eustace, A Citizen of The United States of America, from the Kingdom of Great-Britain, by order of His Grace The Duke of Portland, Minister for the Home Department, &c. &c. &c. [London: Printed for J. Parsons and J. Owen, 1797], 4–5). The book in question was Letters on the Crimes of George III, addressed to Citizen Denis, by an American Officer in the Service of France (Paris: H. Jansen et Comp., 1797). On March 7, 1797, King informed Eustace that “… no Foreign Minister possesses authority to resist the execution of the Resolutions of the Government where he resides—if the resolutions are in his opinion injurious to the rights of his country, he may make representations against them.… I have not been able to effect a change in the Resolution of this Government requiring you to leave the Country” (Eustace, Exile, 41). On the same day Eustace wrote to King: “… the reptile [King] who betrays his trust, and shrinks from the exercise of his highest duty (by a denial of protection to one of those fellow citizens from whose prowess and whose purses are drawn the entire profit and splendor of his present place and equipage) sinks beneath the dignity of personal reproach or revenge” (Eustace, Exile, 42). In late March, 1797, Eustace sailed from England to The Hague (The New-York Gazette and General Advertiser, August 23, 1798). King wrote to William Vans Murray on March 31, 1798: “P. S. Be cautious of Genl. Eustace; he is a very troublesome, but I do not think in any way a dangerous character. He was sent out of England, and his conduct towards me was rude and ungentlemanlike. He began his acquaintance with me with the Tale that I perceive he has related to you, respecting [James] Monroe, [Samuel] Fulton and others. By Monroe’s Book I observe that Eustace was one of his addressers when he was replaced by General [Charles Cotesworth] Pinckney; Be assured that he is a more suitable acquaintance of Monroe than of you or me. He will be a Tale bearer between you and others, with whom he may seek an acquaintance, and is base enough for the office. In the end he will quarrel with you, either because you will not lend money, or countenance him in Pretensions that he will have no right to make” (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 , II, 295).

While in the Netherlands Eustace was arrested, and in the “Embassy of Mr. Monroe” he wrote: “… I published, in August, 1797, a prediction of the subjugation of those Provinces by France, made as early as the year 1794. Having consummated this hellish purpose, in the seizure and exile of all the patriotic Members of the National Convention, by the partizans of the French Directory, on the 22d. January last, only three days were suffered to elapse before I was seized at my lodgings, and at midnight, by a party of eight or ten civil officers, headed by two Deputies of the purified Assembly! All the papers, public and private, found in my Apartment (my military and travelling Diary, Correspondence, &c.) were carried in triumph to the Seat of Government, in three large trunks; escorted by three national Representatives—from an accident, not worth relating, my Biographical Journal escaped their inquisitorial scrutiny.

“I remained a State Prisoner, under a strong guard, without communication with any other person than the American Agent and my Physician, and this in the presence of a municipal officer, till the 16th February! The scarcely regenerated Batavian Convention had devoted the whole Day of the 13th to an investigation of my conduct.… the result was, that a solemn and sententious decree passed the Senate, requiring me to leave the territory of the republic in three times twenty-four hours.” (The New-York Gazette and General Advertiser, August 23, 1798.) See also Murray to John Quincy Adams, February 3, 20, 1798 (ALS, Adams Family Papers, deposited in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston).

Eustace is referring to the fact that in January, 1798, the “unitarist democrats” at The Hague effected a coup against the moderates. The leaders of the coup included Charles Delacroix de Constant, the French minister at The Hague, Herman Willem Daendals, the commander of the Dutch Army, and Barthélemy Catherine Joubert, the head of the French occupation forces. On January 22, 1798, the Batavian assembly convened. See Réimpression de L’Ancien Moniteur description begins Réimpression de L’Ancien Moniteur Seule Histoire Authentique et Inaltérée de la Révolution Française … (Paris, 1847). description ends , January 31, 1798.

Murray, who secured Eustace’s release, wrote to Pickering on March 8, 1798: “In a private letter I may venture to speak of individuals who may have some effect upon the public opinion. General Eustace who has been ordered to quit this nation in a few days sets off to America. He did not live at this place; and in consequence of expressions which I heard he was in the habit of using against the government of the United States I paid him not the smallest attention. He had expressed his intention of giving up his citizenship. I considered him as a weak enthusiast; very self-important.

“On his arrest I did not attend to him till I received a letter from him, acknowledging his errors, upon his determination respecting citizenship and his opinions respecting the French. On this he has completely satisfied me, that though his conviction is sincere, it was in a great degree forced. He assured me it was much owing to Mr. Harper’s pamphlet.

“As I knew that he meant to go to America, and had to a certain degree attracted attention there; and would from his manners excite more, as well from a motive if possible of firing his mind with truth and genuine American zeal, I invited him to dine with me at Rotterdam because he was not suffered to come here. I knew also that he must possess much of the secrets of American Jacobins in Europe. I was not disappointed, particularly in my last object. As to the first, time only can show how far I was instrumental. The last was of most importance, & I think, sir, that if he be a little attended to, as he has a good deal of vanity, he will give some information of consequence respecting several dark particulars of the Southwestern and western plots of [Pierre Auguste] Adet, [Samuel] Fulton, [A. W.] Waldron and others. Of the second, he has a paper (a copy) of some importance as adding evidence to evidence. He can give much information respecting the public affairs and private incidents which gave to these a strange complexion at Paris from the Spring 1793 till 1795. Though I am sure that he cannot hurt the U States, yet I thought that such a convert might be extremely useful at this moment. It may be useful for obtaining all the intelligence that he   to mention that Mr. Vining is his old friend. Formerly he admired the leaders of opposition. It is right also, sir, to inform you that he keeps a journal of things and of conversation, and is apt to publish private correspondence.

“I shall give him a letter to Mr. Harper, to whom, if you please, you can communicate anything in this letter. He published his correspondence with Mr. King. A love of distinction through small means is the principal cause of all his actions, and in such hands as you can put him will be a clue to all he knows.” (ALS, deciphered, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.) See also Pickering to Murray, May 22, 1798 (ALS, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston). Robert Goodloe Harper’s pamphlet is entitled Observations on the Dispute between the United States and France (3rd ed., Philadelphia: Published by William Cobbett, May, 1798).

John Vining, a lawyer from Delaware, was a member of the Continental Congress from 1784 to 1786. He served in the House of Representatives from 1789 to 1793 and in the United States Senate from 1793 until his resignation in 1798. For Eustace’s praise of Murray, see The New-York Gazette and General Advertiser, August 24, 1798.

3Skipwith was consul general of the United States in France from 1795 to 1799. For Eustace’s “vindication” of Skipwith, see The New-York Gazette and General Advertiser, September 11, 12, 1798.

5On April 1, 1799, Eustace wrote to Pickering: “As my former Letter may probably have miscarried, or the object of a personal demand may have been forgot amidst the public concerns of the session, I have now to request that the two Selections from the N. Y. Gazette (which I forwarded in compliance with the desire contained in your favor of the 30th. October) may be returned to me.

“As General Hamilton was the bearer of one of these pamphlets, they can be transmitted to this gentleman; or sent directly to my address. It is scarcely necessary to add, Sir, that it would be a subject of serious consequence to my health, and feelings, to make the journey to Philadelphia—in order to demand them in person, and no act of my life can authorize a belief, that I would sit down patiently under a privation of this sort, were it (as I ⟨trust⟩ it is not) possible—that an officer of the Government should refuse to restore anything confided to him at his particular and written request.” (ALS, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.) For Eustace’s “former Letter,” see Eustace to Pickering, February 9, 1799 (ALS, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston). See also Eustace to H, November 3, 1798, note 2.

6Pickering endorsed Eustace’s letter of April 1, 1799: “April 5th. sent one of his volumes.”

7On April 8, 1799, Pickering wrote to Eustace: “I send herewith your other volume of papers—the former I transmitted in the mail of last Friday” (ALS, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston).

8In mid-August, 1798, the United States Government moved to Trenton because of the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia. See Oliver Wolcott, Jr., to H, August 9, 1798, note 4.

9Eustace’s letter to Pickering, dated September 13, 1798, is printed in installments in The New-York Gazette and General Advertiser, October 10, 11, 12, 13, 20, 24, 25, 1798.

10In his letter to Pickering, Eustace wrote: “You made me a long and friendly visit, at the moment of my departure from Philadelphia in July last, to solicit information on a subject which was considered of some importance to government, in the actual situation of our Country: my replies to your several questions were so apparently satisfactory, that I feel the less reluctance in now submitting to you a Project immediately connected with the Department of State.

“You will remember an observation of mine, in our first conference, that on so various and indefinite a topic as ‘the Discipline of the French army,’ it would be more pleasing to me (and probably more serviceable to government) were the questions arranged at leisure, and with my answers, detailed in writing—as I could then present an equally prompt, though a more lasting testimony of my professional researches abroad; and of the very unreserved confidence, with which I made a tribute of them at home.” (The New-York Gazette and General Advertiser, October 10, 1798.)

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