Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Gouverneur Morris, 4 July 1777

From Gouverneur Morris1

Kingston [New York] July 4 1777

Dear Sir

Your Letter2 gave me the Pleasure of knowing with Certainty what might be depended upon among the numerous Reports circulated Thro the Country with Relation to the Several movements of the Enemy. That Howe3 wishes to draw you to a General Action is highly Probable because certainly he hath no other Means of conquering the Country, but the time when he wishes to Engage must depend upon a General Estimate in his mind of what Forces he now hath, What Accessions he may receive, our Force and the Probability of its Increase or Decrease. To hazard a Generale Action on our Part is certainly contrary to the true Principles of the defensive War in wich we are engagd, so long as we can keep an Army in the Field. The most splended Victory would not Increase our Resources, nor while the Enemy keeps Amboy Strongly fortifyd in their Rear would it much weaken them. Whether Howe will risque an Attack upon our Strong Hold at a Distance from him is rather doubtfull. Possibly he may with a View to draw our Army out Upon a disorderly Retreat, tho this Idea is Rather too fine Spun for him. All the Difficulty with us will be to avoid an Action, and at the same Time save our Reputation. This Perhaps may require some master strokes in the Art of war. On the whole I am Inclined to think that Howe is loth to leave the Ferries with the Air of Compulsion, & Genl, Washington unwilling to let it be believed that he retires in any other way. That is to say (if we may venture to speake Philosophically upon a Subject of this Kind) they are Both Bidding for the Good Opinion of the Disaffected. Many Brave Fellow may Possibly Loose theare Lives on this Occasion which after all can be of little Importance in the General Scale. If the news from the northward be true in all the Extent wich the Generals seem to apprehend Howe will come up the River, but If as I verily believe The Truth is Carlton4 only makes a Fient in that Quarter to Prevent an Attack on our Part then Howe must in some way or other force you to fight him or bid Adieu to the Conquest of America.

But tis in vain to Scrutinize future Events. Let us know from Time to time how many Prisoners you make and what Deserters come in that we may Puff a little. Adieu.

your most Obedient & humble Servant

Gouvr Morris

Transcript, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh. For an explanation of the presence of this transcript in the National Library, see Robert R. Livingston to H, June 7, 1777; copy, The Sol Feinstone Collection, Library of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia; copy, Catharine S. Crary Collection, Columbia University Libraries.

1This letter was signed by Morris in his capacity as a member of the New York Committee of Correspondence.

2Morris may have been referring to H to Robert Livingston, June 28, 1777, or to a letter addressed to Morris which has not been found and is referred to in that letter.

3Sir William Howe.

4Sir Guy Carleton.

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