Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Robert R. Livingston, [18 March 1789]

To Robert R. Livingston

[New York, March 18, 1789]

Dr Sir

Some short time after the evacuation of this City, on the occasion of certain irregularities committed (I think by Sears and others1 in regard to Rivington)2 The Council for the temporary government came to some resolution, or agreed upon some proclamation of a spirited nature for discountenan[c]ing such proceedings which was delivered to the Governor to publish.3 He kept it in his hands and did not publish it and when the Council met alleged that he had consulted Mr. Lamb & Willet4 who thought it would have an ill effect to publish it by exciting ill blood and therefore had not done it. The Majority of the Council consented to its suppression. I remember to have understood at the time that Benson5 & yourself were very angry at the procedure. The circumstances whatever they were I had from him & you.

I will thank you to let me know by the first post after this the particulars of the transaction. A public use has been made of the fact & I understand it is meant to call it in question. It is of great importance that charges when made should be supported and I will therefore be obliged to you for an accurate statement in which I trust you will find no difficulty as the affair was not of a matter to require secrecy. I have requested the same thing of Benson.6 With great esteem & regard

I remain D Sir   Yr. Obed & hum serv

A Hamilton

I remember that either Benson or yourself replied that if the acts of the Council were to depend on the opinions of these people The Council had as good relinquish the Government of the City to them. If you choose to prescribe restrictions they will be observed though I presume they will not be thought necessary

Chancellor Livingston

ALS, New-York Historical Society, New York City.

1Isaac Sears with John Lamb and Marinus Willett had been elected to the New York Assembly at the time of the incident.

2James Rivington, believed by his contemporaries to have been a Tory, was forced by a group of New Yorkers to suspend publication of his paper on December 29, 1783.

3In “H.G. Letter V,” H asserted that after the evacuation of New York City by the British late in 1783 the Council for the Temporary Government of the Southern District, a body charged with the administration of the region occupied by the British until such time as the legislature could take control, adopted a resolution designed to suppress attacks on former Tories. H stated that the resolution was given to the governor for publication. Governor George Clinton, after showing it to two of his advisers, suppressed its publication and at a later meeting of the Council for the Temporary Government of the Southern District persuaded the members to rescind it. In an answer to the charge of “H.G.,” Willett, a supporter of Clinton, said that he and Lamb had persuaded the council to suppress the order and that Clinton had had nothing to do with it (see “H.G.” to Marinus Willett, March 19, 1783).

As chancellor of the state, Livingston was a member of the council and presumably was present at the meetings at which the resolution, whether at the instigation of Willett and Lamb or of the governor, was rescinded.

4At the time this letter was written Lamb was collector of customs at the port of New York. Willett had been sheriff of New York City and County from 1784 to 1788.

5Egbert Benson was the attorney general of New York State.

6Letter not found.

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