From James Watson1
New York Augt. 30th. 1793
A publication appeared sometime since in Greenleaf’s paper,2 charging you with having moved in Convention, that the Government of the United States should be by a King, Lords, & Commons.3 I took some pains to discover the author of that piece, but without success. But a conversation lately happened between Comodore Nicholson4 & Mr. Leonard Bleeker,5 in the hearing of others, in which the Commodore said, he had read the peice before alluded but doubted the truth of it untill it was lately confirmed by Mr. Abraham Baldwin, who was also a member of the Convention.6 This Mr. Baldwin did publicly in a pretty large company at the Commodore’s own Table. He said your motion was seconded by Mr. Gover. Morris & that you was so chagrined when it failed that you left the House in disgust;7 That you returned however on a subsequent day, delivered your sentiments in writing, & Came off to New york, declaring you [would] intermeddle no farther in the matter. Notwithstanding you returned, & assented to the Constitution as it is. This writing he suggested contained your Ideas of the kind of Government proper to be adopted. In repeating from other persons, words are often changed; but the foregoing is the substance of what the Commodore reports Mr. Baldwin to have said. I leave to yourself the expediency of taking any notice of it. Indeed I should not have troubled you with mentioning it were it not for the michevious assiduity of mankind which improves occasions more than things to make ill impressions. As there are evidences enough of the foregoing, it will be needless to use my name in the matter. I will never refuse it however to honest men for honourable purposes.
I am with Real esteem Your Huml. Servant
Copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; ALS, sold by anonymous dealer, 1963; copy, in Watson’s handwriting, from the original in the New York State Library, Albany.
1. Although the copy in the Hamilton Papers is unsigned, the dealer’s copy is signed James Watson.
Watson, a native of Connecticut, had moved to New York in 1786, where he practiced law and engaged in business. In 1791 he was elected to the state Assembly.
2. This publication, signed “Another Jacobin,” was published in Thomas Greenleaf’s The New-York Journal, & Patriotic Register, July 27, 1793. The passage to which Watson is referring reads as follows: “That I may be well understood, I will then say, that G——v——r M——s, at the time when the federal convention were debating about the principles on which the new constitution was to be erected, rose, and moved, that the constitution should recognize a King, Lords, and Commons, as in England. A——n—— H——l——n seconded the motion. The P——d——t countenanced it, and the republican delegation from the eastward rejected it.”
3. This is a reference to a speech made by H in the Constitutional Convention. See “Constitutional Convention. Speech on a Plan of Government,” June 18, 1787.
4. James Nicholson, a naval officer during the American Revolution, was a prominent New York City Republican.
5. Bleecker was a New York City broker.
6. Baldwin had been a delegate to the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention from Georgia. When this letter was written, he was a Federalist member of the United States House of Representatives from Georgia.
7. On the cover of this letter, in an unidentified handwriting, the following note appears: “N B Mr Baldwin must have lyed knowingly for Mr G. Morris was not in the Convention when Mr Hamilton proposed a Plan of Government.”