Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from John Jay, 18 September 1779

From John Jay

Phl. 18 Septr. 1779

Dear Sir

Your favors of the 25, 26, & 30 July & 12 Inst1 have thus long remained unanswered. This Circumstance would naturally lead you to think me inattentive; others will induce you to ascribe it to a different Cause. Exclusive of Business which I never admit or urge as an Excuse for such omissions, want of Health has rendered me less punctual in my private Correspondence than I would wish. The approaching Season will give me Health & Inclination will always prompt me to support a Correspondence with those I value & esteem, in which number I have long considered you.

Your sentiments respecting the Gentleman2 named in your first letter perfectly correspond with my own and tho I wish to see him in a Situation agreable to himself & distant from the Place of his Residence, I cannot prevail upon myself to propose his appointmt to the one you mention, which is daily growing into Confidence & Importance. My Doubts respecting this Gentleman are of long standing and arise from Circumstances which made deep Impression on my mind. I should never forgive myself if before these Doubts are removed I should recommend him to an office in the execution of which they should become fully justified. Our opinions of his Talents Disposition & Passions are the same & I am well apprized of the Consequences which wd. result from their being exerted to obtain the objects of his Pursuit. Some other mode of diverting them may perhaps offer.

I have seen, respected & pitied Monsr. Neuville.3 Considering how some of his Countrymen4 have been promoted, his feelings have doubtless been wounded. His Pretensions however were rather too high, & could not possibly be complied with.

It gives me Pleasure to find that Fleury possesses your Esteem, it will add to the share he has of mine. He stands well with the Minister, & I have punctually seconded your wishes on that Head.5

How far it would be proper or possible to connect him with an American Minister are Questions about which I am by no means clear; such a Step would have Conveniences, but at the same Time be exposed to several unpleasant Consequences. Republics are always jealous, seldom liberal, never grateful, and not always just, and yet I believe, all things considered, the least evil of all Governments. As to the Probability of my going abroad, it is very distant.6 It is one of the last things I wish for, not from any objections to the appointmt simply considered would be agreable, but from the Danger to which every Man’s Reputation is exposed whose advancement would interfere with the views of the most intriguing unprincipled men7 I have ever met with; you know who I mean.

The Board of War are charged with Chevalier de Colombes8 affair, and will probably report in his favor; for my own Part I have ever been averse to giving Brevets except in very particular Cases; it cheapens us.

I am etc.

Col Hamilton

ADf, Columbia University Libraries.

1Letters of July 26, 30, and September 12 not found.

2Colonel William Malcom whom H had proposed for membership on the Board of War. See H to Jay, June 26, 1779.

3For a discussion of the troubles of René-Hippolyte Penot Lombard de Noirmont (de la Neuville), see H to Jay, June 26, 1779.

4In MS, “Countryman.”

5H had written Jay that Lieutenant Colonel Fleury had “an expectation of obtaining the Secretaryship of the next embassy to this country” (H to Jay, July 25, 1779).

6Actually, on September 25, 1779, Jay was named “minister plenipotentiary” to Spain, and he sailed for Europe in the following month.

7This is presumably a reference to the alliance in Congress headed by the Adamses of Massachusetts and the Lees of Virginia. During Jay’s presidency of the Congress he was generally opposed by this group.

8Louis St. Ange Morel, Chevalier de la Colombe, enlisted as a volunteer and left France with Lafayette, to whom he was aide-de-camp. He was brevetted captain by Congress on November 17, 1777. In 1779, he asked Congress for a brevet of major. Although the committee reported in his favor, the committee’s report was not adopted by Congress (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XV, 1102).

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