Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Marquis de Chastellux, [14 June 1784]

To Marquis de Chastellux1

[New York, June 14, 1784]

Monsieur Le Chevalier

Colonel Clarkeson,2 who will have the honor of delivering you this, being already known to you, I give him this letter more for the sake of renewing to you the assurances of my attachment and esteem, than from a supposition that he will stand in need of any new title to your attention. I will therefore only say of him that his excellent qualities cannot be known without interesting those to whom they are known and that from a personal and warm regard for him I should be happy, if any thing I could say could be an additional motive for your countenance and civilities to him.

I speak of him in the capacity3 of a friend: As the messenger of Science he cannot fail to acquire the patronage of one of her favourite ministers. He combines with the views of private satisfaction which a voyage to Europe cannot but afford, an undertaking for the benefit of a Seminary of learning lately instituted in this state.4

Learning is the common concern of Mankind; and why may not poor republicans who can do little more than wish her well, send abroad to solicit the favours of her patrons and friends? Her ambassador will tell you his errand. I leave it to your Mistress to command and to the Trustees of the institution to ask your interest in promoting his mission.

Permit me only to add that if there is any thing in this country by which I can contribute to your satisfaction nothing will make me happier at all times than that your commands may inable me to give you proofs of the respectful and affectionate attachment with which I have the honor to be Monsieur Le Chevalier Your most Obedient and humble servant


The Chevalier De Chastelus

ADfS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1François Jean, Chevalier de Chastellux (known after 1783 by the title of marquis), came to America in 1780 as a major general in the army commanded by Rochambeau. The purpose of his trip was not only to engage in military exploits but to study the territory and customs of America. His observations were published in 1786 under the title Voyages dans l’Amérique Septentrionale en 1780–81–82.

2Colonel Matthew Clarkson, a member of a family prominent in the political and mercantile affairs of New York, served during the American Revolution as aide-de-camp to Major General Benedict Arnold and later on the staff of Major General Benjamin Lincoln. Among many other offices which he held after the war, he was a regent of the University of the State of New York.

In 1784, he was authorized to go to France and the United Netherlands to solicit benefactions for the newly instituted university and to purchase “such philosophical apparatus for the College [Columbia] as Dr. Franklin, Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson, Ministers of the United States should advise” (Stokes, Iconography of Manhattan description begins I. N. Phelps Stokes, The Iconography of Manhattan Island (New York, 1926). description ends , V, 1192).

3The word “capacity” is crossed out on the MS by either H or someone else at a later date.

4The University of the State of New York was organized by the legislature in 1784. See “An Act to amend an Act, entitled, An Act for granting certain Privileges to the College, heretofore called King’s College, for altering the Name and Charter thereof, and erecting an University within this State” (New York Laws, 8th Sess., Ch. XV [November 26, 1784]).

Index Entries