Alexander Hamilton Papers
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To Alexander Hamilton from David Ross, 16 November 1796

From David Ross1

Bladensburgh [Maryland] Novr. 16. 1796

Dear Sir

Being engaged in electioneering prevented my writing as soon as I intended that a Mr. Reese (formerly of Baltimore & now connected with a Whole sale Store in Philadelphia)2 is said to have circulated in George Town, that he had seen, or heard of, a letter of yours to your friends in one of the West India Islands, in which you boasted of the hand you had in promoting our General Government but that it was not yet to your liking & that you had hopes still of introducing a King & Nobility and that you had keept up a correspondence for three years with the British Minister Mr Pitt, but as to the nature of it that was left to every one to draw his own inference. I thought it proper you should know this & judge for yourself whether it was worth your notice. One of Co. Mercers3 party came full of it from George Town to this place.

I have lately heard it hinted that you had acquiesced in Co. Mercers charge of your having through motives of friendship favor’d the Contractor for supplying the Western Army with Provisions,4 by your declining the issue it had been put on, by your correspondence with him. I took the liberty of asserting that if nothing farther had passed than what I knew of, that I had no doubt but that you considered any thing Co. Mercer could say of you was not worth your notice after I had enclosed to you Capt. Campbells5 & my answer lodged at the Printing office at Annapolis, to Co Mercers “Detail”6—mentioning at the same time what those answers were.7 If anything farther has passed between you than what I know of I shall be glad to be informed and if there has not, whether I am right as to your motives for not doing what your correspondence intimated as I have no doubt but the subject will become more public & I wish to have it in my power to contradict & prevent the inference that may be otherwise drawn to your prejudice.

Co Mercer has done as to Mr Adams ⟨–⟩ as to yourself charging him in a late public sp⟨eech – –⟩ District with being an advocate for monarc⟨hy-⟩ partial quotations from his Works, and that he held the poorer classes of People in the greatest contempt—& gave in evidence of it, that Mr Adams at a sumptuous entertainment, told Co Mercer that that was too good for him & that such a Democrat (or Republican) ought to be satisfied with black broth and brown bread. I was present.

If any thing of this sort did pass Mr Adams was ridiculing Co Mercers pretensions to equality & Popularity as I have no doubt he enjoyed the entertainment as much, & showed as much as if not more aristocratical self-importance than, any one of the Company.

This party now assume the name of Republican & those that oppose them are monarchy men & Aristocrats: & these very men that were such opposers of the existing Government now profess the greatest attachment to it & alarm the People with apprehensions for their Government & liberties if they do not elect Mr Jefferson. And as the great body of the People have no knowledge of the characters & as Mr Jeffersons advocates are in general much the most active I should not be surprized if they should be imposed on to do what is so much against their own interest by risking the Peace & happiness of this Country in one who appears not to have been attached to the measures of Government which have keept us clear of European quarrels & secured to us the benefits of Neutrality.

In our District we have had the pleasure of defeating Co. Mercers & Mr Masons speeches8 by electing one who is for persevering in our present measures of Government;9 altho’ they had a majority in this County owing to the great confidence some of our leading characters have still in Co Mercer & his Politicks.

In haste   Your friend & obedt Servt.

David Ross

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Ross had served during the American Revolution as a major in Grayson’s Additional Continental Regiment. After the war he had practiced law and managed his family’s extensive estates in Frederick County, Maryland. From 1786 to 1788 he was a delegate to the Continental Congress from Maryland.

2Probably David Rees, listed as a merchant in the Philadelphia directory for 1796 (Stephen’s Philadelphia Directory, For 1796 … [Philadelphia, n.d.], 150).

3John F. Mercer, a member of a prominent Virginia family, had served during the American Revolution as an aide-de-camp to Major General Charles Lee and as a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia militia. After the war he studied law at Fredericksburg, was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, and represented Virginia in the Continental Congress. In the mid-seventeen-eighties he moved to Maryland and was a delegate from that state to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, where he was an outspoken Antifederalist. A member of the Maryland House of Delegates for the terms 1788–1789 and 1791–1792, he was elected in 1791 to the United States House of Representatives. He served until his resignation on April 13, 1794. Mercer and H were inveterate political enemies. For the protracted dispute between them in 1792, see the introductory note to H to Mercer, September 26, 1792.

4William Duer. For information on this charge by Mercer, see the introductory note to H to Mercer, September 26, 1792.

5William Campbell. For Campbells’ role in H’s dispute with Mercer in 1792, see David Ross to H, November 23, 1792.

6This is a reference to a publication by Mercer in the fall of 1792. According to a letter which Ross wrote to H on November 23, 1792, Mercer stated that “‘a full detail of these and other circumstances (relative to Capt. Campbell) is lodged with the Printers.’” When Ross applied on November 15 “for a copy of this detail” he was “informed by the Gentlemen of the office that no such thing was ever lodged and that on observing this assertion in his Publication a note was sent from the office that no such detail was lodged and his reply was that it was not ready.”

7If Ross sent H a copy of the answer which he and Campbell “lodged at the Printing office at Annapolis,” neither the answer nor the letter in which it was enclosed has been found.

8Presumably Stevens Thomson Mason, United States Senator from Virginia from 1794 to 1803. Mason’s speeches in opposition to the Jay Treaty and other Federalist measures were widely circulated.

9This is a reference to William Craik, a Federalist from Maryland’s third district, which included a part of Ross’s home county, Frederick. Craik, who was elected to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Jeremiah Crabb, took his seat on December 5, 1796, at the beginning of the second session of the Fourth Congress (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 , VI, 1589).

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