Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to John Jay, 31 December 1775

To John Jay

N York Decemr. 31st. 1775

Dear Sir

It is hardly necessary to inform you that I received your favour1 in answer to my letter on the subject of Capt Sear’s Expedition; and that I shall be at all times ready to comply with your request of information concerning the state of the province, or any matters of importance that may arise. Any thing that may conduce to the public service or may serve as a testimony of my respect to you will be always gladly embraced by me.

I have much reason to suspect that the tories have it in contemplation to steal a march upon us, if they can, in respect of a New Assembly. I believe the governor will shortly dissolve the old and issue writs for a new one. The motives for it, at this time, are probably these: It is hoped the attention of the people being engaged with their new institutions, Congresses, committees and the like; they will think the assembly of little importance, and will not exert themselves as they ought to do, whereby the tories may have an opportunity to elect their own creatures. Or at least it is expected the people may be thrown into divisions and ferments, injurious to present measures.2

The tories will be no doubt very artful and intriguing, and it behoves us to be very vigilant and cautious. I have thrown out a hand bill or two to give the necessary alarm, and shall second them by others.

It appears to me that as the best way to keep the attention of the people united and fixed to the same point, it would be expedient that four of our Continental delegates should be candidates for this city and county;3 Mr. Livingston4 Mr. Alsop,5 Mr. Lewis,6 Mr. Jay.7 The minds of all our friends will naturally tend to these, and the opposition will of course be weak and contemptible, for the whigs I doubt not constitute a large majority of the people. If you approve the hint, I should wish for your presence here. Absence you know is not very favorable to the influence of any person however great.

I shall give you farther notice, as I see the scheme advance to execution.

I am Dr. Sir   Your very hum servant

A Hamilton

ALS, Columbia University Libraries.

1Letter not found.

2New York’s first Provincial Congress met on May 22, 1775. Although the royal governor and his Loyalist supporters still maintained that the old Assembly was the legal legislature, the Provincial Congress exercised de facto legislative power. The second Provincial Congress, elected in November, 1775, convened on December 6 and adjourned on December 22, 1775, having authorized a Committee of Safety to carry on business and to order the election of a new congress. Loyalist opposition to the measures of the Provincial Congress was vigorous. Some Loyalists (as well as the royal governor, William Tryon, who had withdrawn in October, 1775, to a British warship in New York Harbor) concluded that it might be possible to restore the power of the old Assembly. Governor Tryon dissolved the Assembly on January 2, 1776, and issued writs for a new election. Although the Assembly met on February 14, 1776, it was prorogued and accomplished nothing.

3H here suggests the plan followed by the New York Patriots. The Assembly, elected on the basis of the writs issued by Governor Tryon, on January 2, 1776, contained a majority of men who had been members of the Provincial Congress. The four men recommended by H were among the New York delegates to the Continental Congress.

4Philip Livingston, born and raised on the family manor, established himself as an importer in New York City. A member of the New York General Assembly in the seventeen-sixties, he subsequently served both as a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses and as a member of the New York Provincial Congress.

5John Alsop, New York City merchant, was active in the politics of colonial New York. Although he early sided with the Patriots in their dispute with the English Ministry and was a New York delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses, he eventually became a Tory.

6Francis Lewis, born in Wales, came to the American colonies in 1735 and established mercantile houses in New York and Philadelphia. After the French and Indian War, during which he served as clothing contractor for the British troops in America, he became prominent in New York politics. A member of the Stamp Act Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, he represented New York in the Continental Congress from 1775 to 1779.

7John Jay.

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