Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Marquis de Lafayette, [21 July 1780]

To Marquis de Lafayette1

[Preakness, New Jersey, July 21, 1780]

My Dear Marquis

We have just received advice from New York through different channels that the enemy are making an embarkation with which they menace the French fleet and army. Fifty transports are said to have gone up the Sound to take in troops and proceed directly to Rhode Island.

The General is absent and may not return before evening. Though this may be only a demonstration yet as it may be serious, I think it best to forward it without waiting the Generals return.

We have different accounts from New York of an action in the West Indies in which the English lost several ships. I am inclined to credit them.2

I am My Dear Marquis   with the truest affection   Yr. Most Obedt

A Hamilton   Aide De Camp

ALS, reproduced from a photostat of a missing original, Massachusetts State Archives, Boston; ADf, in writing of James McHenry, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. [In 2022, the missing document was returned to the Massachusetts Archives following lengthy legal proceedings when the United States Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal to the decision awarding it to them; see United States v. Letter From Alexander Hamilton to Marquis De Lafayette Dated July 21, 1780 for the history behind the decision.]

1Lafayette was at Danbury, Connecticut, when this letter was written.

2On July 18, 1780, Major Benjamin Tallmadge wrote to Washington: “I am informed (via L. Island) that an Express-Boat arrived at N.Y. on the 13th. inst. from the Wt Indies, announcing a compleat Victory obtained over the English fleet by the French in those Seas; in which action, it was said, the former lost 7 or 8 capital Ships” (George Washington Papers, Library of Congress). Although there were three British-French naval encounters in the West Indies between Rodney and Luc-Urbain de Bouëxic, Comte de Guichen, in the spring of 1780 (April 17, May 15, and 19) none of them resulted in the tremendous loss described by Tallmadge.

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