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From Alexander Hamilton to George Washington, 16 October 1795

To George Washington

New York October 16. 1795


About a fortnight since arrived here Mr. Fristel with G W. Fayette son of the Marquis.1 The former, who is in capacity of Tutor to the latter, requested me to mention their arrival to you, and that they meant to retire to some place in the neighbouring country ’till they should receive some direction from you. Thus at least I understood him—and accordingly they are gone to a house between Hackensack & Ramapough in the Jerseys to which may be conveyed any letter you may confide to me for them. They are incog.

Having been informed you were speedily expected from Philadelphia2 & being oppressed with occupation I delayed writing till this time.

Mr. Fristel, who appears a very sedate discreet man, informs me that they left France with permission, though not in their real characters, but in fact with the privity of some members of the Committee of safety who were disposed to shut their eyes and facilitate their departure.

The young Fayette also appears to me very advantageously, modest, of very good manners, and expressing himself with intelligence and propriety.

Shall I trespass on your indulgence in hazarding a sentiment upon the subject of this young Gentleman? If I do let it be ascribed to the double interest I take in a son of the Marquis and in whatever interests the good fame and satisfaction of him to whom I write.

On mature reflecti⟨on⟩ and on sounding opinions, as far as opportunity & the nature of the case have permitted, I fully believe that the President need be under no embarrassment as to any good offices his heart may lead him to perform towards this young man. It will not, I am persuaded, displease those in possession of the power of the Country from which he comes, and in ours it will be singularly and generally grateful. I am even convinced that the personal and political enemies of the President would be gratified should his ideas of the policy of the case restrain him from that conduct which his friendship to the Marquis and his feelings otherwise would dictate. The Youth of this person joined to the standing of his father make the way easy.

I even venture to think it possible that the time is not very remote when the Marquis will again recover the confidence and esteem of his Country when perhaps the men in power may be glad to fortify themselves and their cause with his alliance.3 This however is supposition merely to be indulged as a reflection not to be counted upon as a fact.

There is another subject upon which I will hazard a few words. It is that of Mr. Randolph. I have seen the intercepted letter, which I presume led to his resignation.4 I read it with regret, but without much surprise for I never had confidence in Mr. Randolph, and I thought there were very suspicious appearances about him on the occasion to which the letter particularly refers.

I perceive that rendered desperate himself he meditates as much mischief as he can. The letter he calls for I presume is that above alluded to.5 His object is, if he obtains it, to prejudice others—if any part is kept back, to derive advantage to his cause from the idea, that there may be something reserved which would tend to his exculpation and to produce suspicion that there is something which you are interested to keep from the light.

Though from this state of public prejudices I shall probably for one be a sufferer by the publication; yet upon the whole I incline to the opinion that it is most adviseable the whole should come before the public. I acknowlege that I do not express this opinion without hesitation and therefore it will deserve as it will no doubt engage your mature reflection but such is the present byass of my judgment. I am the more inclined to the opinion as I presume that the subject being in part before the public, the whole letter will finally come out through the quarter by which it was written, and then it would have additional weight to produce ill impressions.

With great respect & Affectionate attachment I have the honor to be Sir Yr. very obed ser

A Hamilton

The President of The UStates

ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress; copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1This is a reference to George Washington Motier Lafayette, son of the Marquis de Lafayette, and his tutor Felix Frestel. Before going to New York, they had been in Boston, where they had arrived from France. On August 31, 1795, George W. M. Lafayette had written to the President from Boston: “Après bien des peines et des traverses, c’est en Amerique, c’est auprès de vous, que je viens chercher un azyle, et mon pere. j’avois aspiré depuis long-temps après cet heureux moment, qui toujours avoit fui devant moi.

“je commence à espérer maintenant davantage.

“comme c’est à votre nom, que je dois le bonheur de me trouver enfin dans ma seconde Patrie; ce sera sûrement encore à vous, que je devrai celui d’y voir aussi mon pere, heureux et libre, ainsi que tout ce qui m’est cher.

“Voudrez-vous bien permettre au fils infortune d’un homme, que vous avez honoré de quelque amitié, et qui de bonne-he⟨ure⟩ apprit de lui à vous regarder comme son père, de venir vous offrir l’expression de sa reconnoissance, et l’hommage d’un respect aussi profond que tendre … oserai-je dire filial?” (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.)

Frestel also wrote to Washington on August 31, 1795, requesting an interview with the President as well as advice concerning young Lafayette’s future in the United States (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress).

On September 2, 1795, Henry Knox, who was also in Boston, wrote to Washington: “The son of Monsieur La Fayette is here—accompanied by an amiable french man as a Tutor—young Fayette goes by the name of Motier, concealing his real name, lest some injury should arise, to his mother…. Your namesake is a lovely young man, of excellent morals and conduct …” (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress).

On September 7, 1795, in a letter to George Cabot, United States Senator from Massachusetts, Washington enclosed young Lafayette’s and Frestel’s letters and wrote: “…Let me in a few words, declare that I will be his friend, but the manner of becomg. so considering the obnoxious light in which his father is viewed by the French government, and my own situation, as the Executive of the U States, requires more time to consider in all its relations, than I can bestow on it at present….

“The mode which, at the first view strikes me as the most eligable to answer his purposes; & to save appears. is, 1 to administer all the consolation to young Gentleman that he can derive from the most unequivocal assurances of my standing in the place of and becoming to him, a Father—friend—protector—and supporter. but 2dly. for prudential motives, as they may relate to himself; his mother and friends, whom he has left behind; and to my official character it would be best not to make these sentiments public; of course, it would be ineligable, that he should come to the Seat of the genl. government where all the foreign characters (particularly that of his own nation) are residents, until it is seen what opinions will be excited by his arrival; especially too as I shall be necessarily absent five or Six weeks from it, on business, in several places. 3. considering how important it is to avoid idleness & dissipation; to improve his mind; and to give him all the advantages which education can bestow; my opinion, and my advice to him is, (if he is qualified for admission) that he should enter as a student at the University in Cambridge altho’ it shd. be for a short time only. The expence of which, as also of every other mean for his support, I will pay; and now do authorize you, my dear Sir, to draw upon me accordingly; and if it is in any degree necessary, or desireable, that Mr. Frestel his Tutor should accompany him to the University, in that character, any arrangements which you shall make for the purpose and any expence thereby incurred for the same, shall be borne by me in like manner.” (ADfS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.)

On September 16, 1795, Cabot replied to Washington: “The letter which you did me the honor to write on the 7th was received last evening, when I immediately waited on the Gentlemen who are the subject of it. They were in a state of anxiety respecting a new place of residence where they might live unnoticed—considerations of the kind which you have mentioned & some other render this eligible for the present, but it is found impracticable here. Already Mr Motier is known to too many persons….

“In addition to the motives already explained for removing further than Cambridge it was urged that the studies now actually pursuing by Mr Motier are entirely different from those prescribed in any of our universities, & that your desires will therefore be best accomplished by a continuance in his present course under Mr. Frestel; it was admitted however that other aids wou’d be requisite in those branches of education which Mr Frestel does not profess—with a view to these & to combine with them abstinence from society it is thought best to seek a position near some principal town where all the desiderata can be found … to day on their visiting me I found they had concluded it wou’d be best to go to New York…

“... I shall give them letters to Colonel [Jeremiah] Wadsworth & to Coll Hamilton the latter of whom will probably know where they may be found after they shall be established….” (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.)

2Washington had left Mount Vernon on October 12, 1795, and arrived at Philadelphia on October 20.

4This is a reference to Fauchet’s Dispatch No. 10, which had been intercepted by the British and turned over to the Washington Administration. For the way in which the contents of this dispatch led to Edmund Randolph’s resignation as Secretary of State, see Oliver Wolcott, Jr., to H, July 30, 1795, note 1.

It is not possible to ascertain how H obtained a copy of Fauchet’s Dispatch No. 10, for H’s correspondence indicates that Wolcott did not send him a copy of it until November 13 or 14, 1795. See H to Wolcott, October 30-November 12, 1795, note 15, and Wolcott to H, November 16, 1795, note 2. Moreover, in a letter which H wrote to Wolcott on October 30 and mailed on November 12, 1795, he stated: “I am very anxious that Fauchet’s whole letter should appear just as it is…. Is it to come out? Can’t you send me a copy?”

5H’s assumption was incorrect, for Randolph was not requesting Dispatch No. 10. Instead on October 8, 1795, Randolph wrote to Washington: “Until monday last I did not obtain from the office those of my own letters, which I deem proper to be introduced into my vindication. But I still want the inspection of a letter from you, dated July 22. 1795, and received by me. I applied personally at the office on saturday last for the sight of your letters to me. The Chief Clerk went into the room, in which Mr. Pickering sits, to consult him, at my desire, upon my application. He afterwards carried to Mr Pickering a brown paper, and on his return placed it before me. It contained many of your letters; and was indorsed to this purport ‘The President’s letters.’ I presumed that they were all there; as no mention was made to me of any, that were missing. But not finding that of July 22. 1795, I asked for it; and the chief clerk replied, that Mr. Pickering had just taken it out; and that upon his saying, that I might wish to see it, Mr. Pickering had observed, that, if I did, I would ask for it. I accordingly asked for it again; but was answered, that it was necessary to consult Mr. Wolcott. Not hearing any thing late on Monday from the Chief Clerk, I reminded by a note, and on tuesday received thro’ him the rancorous and insolent answer of Mr. Pickering, which amounts to a positive refusal, and of which due notice will be taken in its proper place. I affirm to you, that I hold that letter to be important to me of the views, which the question will bear. As I aim at accuracy in my statements; I am anxious to prevent a mistake in my recollection of that letter, and therefore request the inspection of it…” (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress).

On October 21, 1795, Washington, in reply to Randolph’s letter, wrote in part: “… It is not difficult, from the tenor of that letter, to perceive what your objects are, but that you may have no cause to complain of the withholding any paper (however private & confidential) which you shall think necessary in a case of so serious a nature, I have directed that you should have the inspection of my letter of the 22d. of July agreeably to your request; and you are at full liberty, to publish, without reserve, any, and every private & confidential letter I ever wrote you—nay more—every word I ever uttered to, or in your hearing, from whence you can derive any advantage in your vindication.

“I grant this permission, inasmuch as the extract alluded to manifestly tends to impress on the public mind an opinion that something has passed between us which you should disclose with reluctance; from motives of delicacy which respect me.” (ADf, with interlineations in Timothy Pickering’s handwriting, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.)

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