Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from James McHenry, [19–23 October 1792]

From James McHenry

[Annapolis, October 19–23, 1792]

My dear Hamilton.

Knowing that I was apt to lose letters out of my pocket, and recollecting that you are a little subject to lose them by not putting them into yours, I thought it best that we should burn them. I can therefore answer to your inquiry1 (reced. last night) only from memory. I think I, as mere intelligence, mentioned to you the names of some of our candidates for Congress and subjoined some sketch of their respective characters.2 I mentioned among others Mercer3 with some epithet of disapprobation which I think you responded: but I do not remember that more passed respecting that gentlemen than the epithet of disapprobation against his political principles. In a letter which spoke of a certain philosopher helping a brother philosopher I beleive you said that the capitol was in danger and that it behoved good men not to slumber when the enemies of all order were so busy.4 On the whole, the little I did against Mercer was not the consequence of any thing you said about him. I had read his speeches in Congress and in all companies where the opportunity offered had expressed their fallacy and consequences and mischievous nature of his politics. I can safely acquit you of having either led my mind to give him opposition, or to have excited in it any ideas which were not in it before.

A little piece in Goddards last tuesdays paper5 has drawn an answer respecting Mr. Adams signed a consistent federalist, which will serve to give the alarm to our friends. As it was necessary to allow it time to travel from Annapolis it does not appear till next tuesday.6 I shall write to the Eastern shore and take such other steps as may be proper in such a conjuncture.

I am getting more strength. Yours affectionately

James McHenry

One of your letters respecting candidates in a certain event is not burn’t. It is in my trunk. But, that concerns not the present business.

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Letter not found.

4Letter not found.

5William Goddard was publisher of The [Baltimore] Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser. McHenry is referring to an article printed in that newspaper on October 16, 1792, signed by “A citizen.” This article advocated substituting Charles Carroll of Carrollton for John Adams as a Federalist candidate in the 1792 presidential election.

6The reply, which was dated October 19, 1792, and signed by “A Consistent Federalist,” appeared in Goddard’s paper on October 23, 1792. The article ridiculed “A citizen” for perpetrating an Antifederalist plot to take votes away from Adams and aid the cause of an Antifederalist candidate.

The article concluded: “To these observations I think I may venture to subjoin, that it is not to disgrace a worthy and patriotic citizen that will draw Mr. Carroll into the lists of competition; and to predict, that if he ever becomes a candidate for continental favour, his merit and high qualifications will raise him to a more dignified station. But who can look forward to that moment, when we shall stand in need of all his merits and all our courage; when the United States will be convulsed to their centre by embrio Cæsars, struggling for empire, and scarcely saved by the friends of order and virtue? Who, I say, can anticipate that solemn crisis, of which this is only the prelude, without devoutly wishing to the present beloved Incumbent the years of the Patriarchs who lived before the flood?” (The [Baltimore] Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, October 23, 1792.)

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