Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Henry Lee, 25 August 1794

To Henry Lee1

War Department
August 25. 1794


In place of The Secretary at War, who is absent,2 I am instructed by The President to signify to you his wish and request that you will come forth in the command of the Militia, which is to be detached from Virginia against the Insurgents in the Western parts of Pensylvania;3 in which case You will have the command of the whole force that may be employed upon that Enterprise.

The President anticipates, that it will be as painful to you to execute, as it is to him to direct, measures of coertion against fellow citizens however misled. Yet he needed not the assurance you have already given him of the sense you entertain of their conduct and its consequences to be convinced that he might count ever on your zealous personal service,4 towards suppressing an example fatal in its tendency to every thing that is dear and valuable in political society.

With the greatest respect & attachment   I have the honor to be Your Excellency’s Most Obedt & humble servant

Alex Hamilton

His Exellency Henry Lee Esqr
Governor & Commander in Chief
of Virginia

ALS, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

1For background to this letter, see “Deposition of Francis Mentges,” August 1, 1794, note 1; H to George Washington, August 2, 5, 1794.

4On August 17, 1794, Lee wrote to Washington: “Your late orders for a detachment of militia & proclamation give birth to a variety of sensations & opinions. All good citizens deplore the events which have produced this conduct on your part, & feel but one determination to maintain inviolate our happy government at the risk of their lives & fortunes. There are some among us from the influence of party spirit & from their own ambitious views who rejoice in national adversity & gladden when they hear of governmental embarrassments.

“I am gratified in telling you that the great body of this State will excel themselves in whatever way you may direct to the utmost of their power & I am persuaded that you may count with certainty on their zeal & determination. The awful occasion demands united efforts & I beg leave to offer to you my services in any way or station you may deem them proper.…” (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.)

On August 26, 1794, Washington replied to Lee’s letter as follows: “Your favor of the 17th. came duly to hand.… it gives me sincere consolation amidst the regret with which I am filled, by such lawless & outrageous conduct, to find by your letter above mentioned, that it is held in general detestation by the good people of Virginia; and that you are disposed to lend your personal aid to subdue this spirit, and to bring those people to a proper sense of their duty” (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress).

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