Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to James Hamilton, 22 June 1785

To James Hamilton1

New York, June 22, 1785.

My Dear Brother:

I have received your letter of the 31st of May last, which, and one other, are the only letters I have received from you in many years. I am a little surprised you did not receive one which I wrote to you about six months ago.2 The situation you describe yourself to be in gives me much pain, and nothing will make me happier than, as far as may be in my power, to contribute to your relief. I will cheerfully pay your draft upon me for fifty pounds sterling, whenever it shall appear. I wish it was in my power to desire you to enlarge the sum; but though my future prospects are of the most flattering kind my present engagements would render it inconvenient to me to advance you a larger sum. My affection for you, however, will not permit me to be inattentive to your welfare, and I hope time will prove to you that I feel all the sentiment of a brother. Let me only request of you to exert your industry for a year or two more where you are, and at the end of that time I promise myself to be able to [invite you to a more]3 comfortable settlement [in this Country. Allow me only to give you one caution, which is to avoid if possible getting in debt. Are you married or single? If the latter, it is my wish for many reasons it may be agreeable to you to continue in that state.

But what has become of our dear father?4 It is an age since I have heared] from him or of him, though I have written him several letters. Perhaps, alas! he is no more, and I shall not have the pleasing opportunity of contributing to render the close of his life more happy than the progress of it. My heart bleeds at the recollection of his misfortunes and embarrassments. Sometimes I flatter myself his brothers have extended their support to him, and that he now enjoys tranquillity and ease. At other times I fear he is suffering in indigence. I entreat you, if you can, to relieve me from my doubts, and let me know how or where he is, if alive, if dead, how and where he died. Should he be alive inform him of my inquiries, beg him to write to me, and tell him how ready I shall be to devote myself and all I have to his accommodation and happiness.

I do not advise your coming to this country at present, for the war has also put things out of order here, and people in your business find a subsistence difficult enough. My object will be, by-and-by, to get you settled on a farm.

Believe me always your affectionate friend and brother,

Alex. Hamilton.

[Mr. James Hamilton]

National Intelligencer, February 17, 1859; autograph fragment, MS Division, New York Public Library.

1James Hamilton, H’s older brother, was born in 1753. After the death of his mother in 1768, James was apprenticed to a carpenter on the island of St. Croix. Nothing is definitely known of the remainder of his life. Holger Utke Ramsing in his authoritative account of the parentage and boyhood of H states that James Hamilton died in 1786 (“Alexander Hamilton,” Personalhistorisk tidsskrift description begins Holger Utke Ramsing, “Alexander Hamilton og hans mødrene Slaegt. Tidsbilleder fra Dansk Vestindiens barndom,” Personalhistorisk tidsskrift, 24 cm., 10 Raekke, 6 bd. (Copenhagen, 1939). description ends , 225–70).

This letter is preceded in the National Intelligencer by the following paragraph: “A member of the family of the late General Alexander Hamilton has handed us a copy of the subjoined letter from that distinguished soldier and statesman to his brother, which it is thought will possess interest for our readers.”

In the Intelligencer the letter is dated June 22, 1785. In Hamilton, Intimate Life description begins Allan McLane Hamilton, The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1910). description ends , 6, and in Gertrude Atherton, ed., A Few of Hamilton’s Letters (New York, 1903) 136, the letter is dated June 23, 1783. In Hamilton, Reminiscences, 2–3, and in Hamilton, History description begins John C. Hamilton, Life of Alexander Hamilton, a History of the Republic of the United States of America (Boston, 1879). description ends , VII, 842, the letter is dated June 23, 1785.

2Neither of the two letters has been found.

3Material within brackets taken from autograph fragment, MS Division, New York Public Library.

4James Hamilton, H’s father, who had gone to the island of St. Croix from the island of St. Kitts to collect a debt, returned to St. Kitts in 1765, leaving Rachel Fawcett Lavien and their two sons on St. Croix. Mitchell (Hamilton description begins Broadus Mitchell, Alexander Hamilton, Youth to Maturity, 1775–1788 (New York, 1957). description ends , 14) infers that James Hamilton lived on several of the southern islands before he moved to St. Vincent sometime before June, 1793.

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