Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Marquis de Lafayette, 29 June 1782

From Marquis de Lafayette

Paris June the 29th 1782

My dear Hamilton

How it Happens that I still am in Paris, I Hardly Can Myself Conceive1 and What is More Surprising, there are two frigates Going, Neither of Which Will Carry Your friend to America. Don’t think However, dear Hamilton, I Am So Much Alterd as to Be Kept Here By pleasure or private Affairs. But in the present Circumstances the American Ministers Have insisted Upon My Remaining some time longer at this Court Where they Say I May Render Myself More Useful to our Cause than I Can possibly Be in America during an Inactive Campaign. My Return However is only deferd for a few weeks, and after some Answers Have Arrived from England, Which I think will discover the views of, But Not Yet Produce a Reconciliation With Great Britain, I intend embarking for Philadelphia where I Hope to land in the first days of September.

This stroke of Count de Grasse Has Greatly deranged My schemes.2 I Hoped for 40 [Charles Town]3 and perhaps for Better than that—But Nothing Untill 6 [Jamaica] was done.4 40 [Chs. Town] I much expected. 9 [The Spaniards] don’t like 54 [America]. We must previously Have 40 [Chs. Town], and then to put them in good Humour do some thing about 8 [West Indies]. Both of which are not yet done, and after that I Hope—But at all events this Campaign will Be Very inactive, I think. However they are going to take Gibraltar, and Will Gather So Many Means of doing of it, that it is Said they will Succeed.5 After this trial, the forces of the House of Bourbon will Be distributed with a Better scale. 46 [Negotiations] is Going, and 47 [Peace] expected, But not, I think, immediately.

You have a good Chance, and I Believe You Have time to Be one of the 125 [Commissioners]. Jefferson does not Come.6 Mr Laurens, I am told, intends to Return Home, and I Cannot Conceive, (entre nous) what He is About.7 Mr Adams thinks His presence is Wanting in Holland.8 I thought I Had Better Give You these intelligences.

Not a Word from You, Since we parted in Virginia, But I am a Good Natured Man and Will not Get tired to speak to a deaf Man. My Best Respects to Your Amiable lady—to Mrs Carter,9 Mrs Schuyler,10 Miss Peggy.11 My affectionate Compliments to your old father in law.

Adieu, Most affectionately Your forever    devoted friend


ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1On April 12, 1782, Lafayette had written H of his intention to come to America in the near future.

2Lafayette probably referred to Admiral Sir George Rodney’s decisive victory over the French fleet, commanded by François Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse, in the West Indies on April 12, 1782.

3The British were still in possession of Charleston. Lafayette apparently had hoped that the French fleet would convoy troops there.

The decoding of the cypher on the manuscript is written above the numerals in H’s writing.

4In November, 1782, after the defeat of Charles, Earl Cornwallis at Yorktown, De Grasse had sailed for the West Indies to attack British possessions, among them Jamaica.

5Soon after Spain entered the war in 1779, France and Spain had laid seige to Gibraltar. Lafayette probably referred to plans for a more vigorous effort.

6Thomas Jefferson had been appointed one of the Peace Commissioners on June 15, 1781; he resigned on October 8, 1781, and was reappointed on November 12, 1782.

7Henry Laurens, Minister Designate to the Netherlands, was captured by the British in 1780 and imprisoned in the Tower of London. On the last day of 1781 he was released, ostensibly on bail but actually in anticipation of his exchange for Lord Cornwallis. Lord Shelburne, in the spring of 1782, sent Laurens to the Hague to confer with John Adams. According to reports Shelburne had received, Adams was reported to have said that the American Ministers were free to negotiate for peace independently of France. On June 15, 1781, Laurens had been appointed as one of the American Peace Commissioners.

8Adams, because of negotiations he was conducting in Holland for a loan and treaty, did not arrive in Paris until October, 1782.

9Angelica Church, H’s sister-in-law and wife of John B. Church (John Carter).

10Mrs. Philip Schuyler, H’s mother-in-law.

11Margaret (Margarita) Schuyler, H’s sister-in-law.

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