Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Nathaniel Mitchell, [20 July 1787]

To Nathaniel Mitchell1

[New York, July 20, 1787]

Dear Sir

Agreeably to what passed between us I have had an interview with Mr. Auldjo,2 and I flatter myself, if there is (as I doubt not there will be) as much moderation on the part of Major Peirce3 as there appears to be on that of Mr. Auldjo, that the affair between them4 may yet be amicably terminated.

But Mr. Auldjo observes, I confess in my opinion with propriety, that he ought to know with some precision the matters which have given offence to Major Pearce before he can enter into explanations, which he declares himself to be ready to do with coolness and candour, the moment he shall be enabled to do it by a specification of the subjects of complaint.

If a personal interview is for any reason disagreeable to Major Pearce I entreat you, my dear Sir to obtain from him and to communicate to me by letter the substance of what has occasioned his dissatisfaction, with so much particularity only, as will put it in the power of Mr. Auldjo to give an explicit answer. Major Pearce will, I hope, have no scruples about this, for as the door of explanation has been opened by Mr. Auldjo, there is no punctilio which stands in his way; and I trust he will feel the force of a sentiment, which prudence and humanity equally dictate, that extremities ought then only to ensue, when, after a fair experiment, accommodation has been found impracticable. An attention to this principle interests the characters of both the Gentlemen concerned and with them our own; and, from every other consideration, as well as that of personal friend ship to the parties, I sincerely wish to give it its full operation. I am convinced you are not less anxious to effect this than myself and I trust our joint endeavours will not prove unsuccessful.

I cannot hewever conclude without making one remark. Though Mr. Auldjo has expressed and still entertains a desire of explanation it would ill become him to solicit it. Whatever therefore in my expressions may seem to urge such an explanation with the earnestness of entreaty must be ascribed to my own feelings and to that inclination which every man of sensibility must feel—not to see extremities take place if it be in his power to prevent them or until they become an absolutely necessary sacrifice to the prejudices of public opinion.

I remain with sincere regard   Dr Sir   Your Obed ser

Alex Hamilton

The Honble Mr. Mitchell

ALS, Mr. Hall Park McCullough, North Bennington, Vermont; ADfS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress. The draft, which is unaddressed, is printed without an addressee in JCHW description begins John C. Hamilton, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1851). description ends , I, 437–39, and HCLW description begins Henry Cabot Lodge, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1904). description ends , IX, 419–20.

1Nathaniel Mitchell of Delaware was a member of the Continental Congress from 1786 to 1788.

2John Auldjo, a partner in an English mercantile house, was at this time handling his firm’s affairs in the United States.

3Major William Pierce served during the Revolution as aide-de-camp to Major General Nathanael Greene. After his retirement from the Army in 1783, he was the head of a mercantile house in Savannah, Georgia. In 1786, Pierce was elected a member of the Continental Congress and, in 1787, appointed a member of the Georgia delegation to the Constitutional Convention.

4Having challenged Auldjo to a duel, Pierce requested Mitchell to be his second. Auldjo asked H to be his second. The circumstances of the controversy are described in the following letter from Pierce to Mitchell:

“New York July 19th 1787.

“My dear Sir

“Having received an insult from Mr. Jno. Auldjo, I have to request that you will be my Friend, and bear to him the enclosed challenge.

“Mr. Auldjo, is a partner of the House of Strachan McKenzie & Co of London, with whom I have had considerable mercantile dealings. Some difficulties having arisen, in which I was involved with an old concern, I, in order to remove any uneasiness on the part of Mr. Auldjo made an assignment of a parcel of Accounts & Bonds to him. The Books in which the Accounts lay not being fully adjusted, and stated, he made a loud complaint of the irregularity of things, and called forth the attention of every Person in Savannah to my private affairs, as if they, or any other set of People had any business with them. In consequence of this report, my Enemies triumphed, and my Friends grew cool.

“On Mr. Auldjo’s arrival in Philadelphia, he waited on me, and behaved in a manner that would have called forth my resentment then, but some public as well as private circumstances restrained me. In a conversation which passed between us he was not only indelicate in his langage as it applied to me, but insulting in his reflections on my State and the People in it. I preserved my temper, and heard him with marks of civility and decency. I had been accustomed to respect the Man and could have wished always to have been on the best terms with him, but on this occasion he forfeited every thing.

“Notwithstanding all this, I agreed to make any farther collateral security in my power for the balance of the debt due by Wm. Pierce & Co. to his House in London, and did actually made over to him a great deal of real, and some personal property. European debts I hold sacred, and as far as I am able I will prove that I think so. You sir can witness for me, that in my public capacity, I have always indulged this idea, that all foreign transactions ought to be supported even at the expence of every other consideration.

“Besides the injuries I have already mentioned, I have a great many more which I will give you in detail, and which warrant my highest resentment against Mr. Auldjo.

“Having taken up this matter, under full conviction that I am right, I am determined amidst every difficulty, to have compleat redress. In support of my feelings and honor on the present occasion, I hold no sacrifice too great.

“I am my dear sir Your affectionate Friend Wm. Pierce

“I remitted the House of Strachan McKenzie & Co. a considerable quantity of Rice & Indigo in two or three shipments. I sent them a remittance in Indigo by the way of Amsterdam. I sent a large ship laden with live Oak for Amsterdam, and had her ensured in London for £2000 sterling. She was lost and the insurance ought to have been paid. Mr. Auldjo will acknowledge, and did acknowledge that few of his Debtors had made such payments as I had done.

“The honble Mr. Mitchell” (ALS, Mr. Hall Park McCullough, North Bennington, Vermont.)

Index Entries