Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens, [4 February 1781]

To Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens1

[New Windsor, New York, February 4, 1781]

Col Armand, My Dear friend, who is charged with the Marquis’s dispatches will set out in half an hour. It is fortunate that nothing very important since you ⟨left⟩ us has occurred, for I should scarcely ⟨have⟩ liesure to communicate it.

By a late letter from Greene he had taken a new position on the left of Charlotte at the Cheraws,2 which brings him nearer to Cross creek,3 enables him the better to awe that disaffected settlement and draw supplies from the lower Country. He had left Morgan4 with a party of observation on the other side of the Peedee ⟨to⟩ restrain the enemy within as narrow ⟨limits⟩ as possible to protect and inspirit the upper country and to form a number of small magazines in his rear. He gives a deplorable picture of the situation of his army, destitute of everything.

Leslie5 he says had landed at Charles Town and was marching to join Cor[n]wallis. The junction effected ⟨he⟩ supposes of course they will recom⟨mence⟩ the offensive.

Armand, will give you the particulars of Arnolds incursion to Richmond in Virginia; when our ⟨–⟩ accounts came away, he was at ⟨– –⟩ the place of his debarkation; but ⟨– –⟩ subsequent report of his having ⟨left⟩ the bay.

The enemy here seem to be doing nothing. About a fortnight since they were embarking some heavy cannon and stores. But of late we have heard of no further preparations. It is probable those were with a view to our interior disurb⟨ances⟩ and have ceased with them.

You will have hea⟨rd that⟩ part of the Jersey troops having ⟨emulated⟩ the Pensylvanians;6 there was no ⟨–⟩ interposition and, of course, we uncivilly compelled them to an unconditional surrender and hanged their most incendi⟨ary⟩ leaders.

I promised to give you ⟨an account of⟩ the progress of the disquiets in this state. More judicious ⟨men⟩ have in several counties diverted the malcontents from the project of a convention7 which was no doubt of tory origin to subvert the present government and introduce confusion; but petitions and remonstrances to the legislature on the ⟨g⟩rievances, which the people suppose they labour under will be universal. I hope however these little commotions will for the present subside without any dangerous consequences.

I have just received a letter8 from General Schuyler in which he tells me of a motion made by him and which he had no doubt would be carried, to invite the several states to a meeting in Convention ⟨as⟩ soon as possible for the purpose of finally ⟨con⟩cluding a solid confederation to give ⟨suf⟩ficient powers to Congress for calling forth the resources of the country.9 The establishment of funds for the support of the war is to be a primary object of the Convention, and to this end it is proposed by this state to relinquish such a portion of its unlocated lands as will suffice for creating a new state. I am pleased with this motion and I devout⟨ly pray⟩ it success in all its stages. The plan ⟨for⟩ a new state will greatly assist our f⟨riends⟩ and if rightly understood by foreigners will operate as an inducement to lend us money. I have not time to enlarge; if the pl⟨an be put⟩ into a train of success I will give ⟨you details⟩ of it, as it may be of use to you.

They are recruiting in Pen⟨nsylvania⟩ with success and we are told the Eastern States are making great efforts; of this you will be better able to judge than we; but it is the issue of your commission which will determine the utility of these efforts and of all the others we can or may make. A loan of m⟨on⟩ey is the sine qua non. Adieu ⟨my⟩ beloved friend. Do justice to my ⟨regard⟩ for you. Assure yourself that ⟨it is⟩ impossible more a[r]dently to wis⟨h for your⟩ health safety pleasure and success ⟨than⟩ I do. God send you speedily back to us.


A Hamilton

We just learn that ⟨Maryland⟩ has acceeded to the Confederation.10 This is ⟨– –⟩ point. We have it not officially; but I believe ⟨there is⟩ no doubt of ⟨it.⟩

ALS, South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston.

1When this letter was written, Laurens was about to sail for France. In December, 1780, Congress had commissioned him envoy extraordinary to France.

2Cherow or Cheraw, in north central South Carolina. Henry Lee stated that soon after taking command Greene “moved down the Pedee, and took a position on its eastern bank, nearly opposite Cheraw hill.” (Henry Lee, Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department, I, 247.)

3In southeast North Carolina.

4Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, Continental Army.

5General Alexander Leslie.

6The Pennsylvania line, which mutinied on January 1, 1781, won concessions from the state government of Pennsylvania. When on January 20, the New Jersey line mutinied at Pompton, New Jersey, Washington sent Major General Robert Howe with 600 soldiers from West Point to suppress the mutiny. On January 27, Howe put down the mutiny and executed two of the mutineers.

7This refers to the proposals of various local committees that some action be taken to improve the state’s finances and to prevent the impressment of supplies by the Army. In January, 1781, Robert R. Livingston wrote: “The people are clamorous; and the whole County of Dutches[s] have chosen precinct & County committees to instruct their members &c. Some districts in Albany have gone further & chosen members for a State convention.… I need not shew you the dangers that must attend such a measure and the encouragement it will give the enimy.” (Robert R. Livingston to Gouverneur Morris, January 18, 1781, ADf, New-York Historical Society, New York City.)

8Letter not found.

9Schuyler was at this time a member of the New York Senate. In referring to this motion, Schuyler, on March 13, 1787, wrote to Henry Van Schaack:

“I beheld with chagrin that the politicians of this state seldom if ever drew with those of the eastern states. I wished to eradicate the injurious jealousy which prevailed between them and us. Impelled by these sentiments, I proposed in 1781 that a convention should be held, the ostensible object of which would be to devise more efficient means for prosecuting the war, but the real one to form such a tacit compact as has long subsisted between what we call the New England States.… But my plan was too bold to meet with success from timid politicians and such as still regarded with jealous suspicion the people of New England. In short, I failed.” (Henry C. Van Schaack, Memoirs of the Life of Henry Schaack [Chicago, 1892], 153.)

10Maryland actually signed the Articles of Confederation on February 27, 1781.

Index Entries