Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from George Washington, 23 November 1795

From George Washington1

Philadelphia 23d Novr 1795.

My dear Sir,

Enclosed are letters for Mr. de la Fayette, and his Tutor.2 I leave them open for your perusal; and notwithstanding the request in my letter of the 18th. I shall cheerfully acquiesce in any measures respecting them which you (and others with whom you may be disposed to consult) may deem most eligible.

As there can be no doubt, that the feelings of both are alive to every thing which may have the semblance of neglect or slight, and indeed, expectant as they must have been (without adverting perhaps to the impediments) of an invitation to fly to me without delay—and distressing & forlorn as the situation of one of them is—It is necessary that every assurance & consolation should be administered to them. For these reasons I pray you to send my letters to them by Express, the expence of which I will repay with thankfulness.

The doubt which you have expressed of the propriety of an open and avowed conduct in me towards the son of Mr. de la Fayette, and the subject it might afford to malignancy to misinterpret the cause, has so much weight that I am distrustful of my own judgment in deciding on this business lest my feelings should carry me further [than]3 prudence (while I am a public character) will warrant. It has, however, like many other things in which I have been involved—two edges, neither of which can be avoided without falling on the other. On one side, I may be charged with countenancing those who have been denounced the enemies of France; on the other with not countenancing the Son of a man who is dear to America.

When I wrote to you last4 I had resolved to take both the Pupil & Tutor into my own family, supposing it would be most agreeable to the young gentleman, & congenial with friendship—at the sametime that it would have given me more command over him—been more convenient & less expensive to myself than to board them out. But now, as I have intimated before, I confide the matter entirely to your decision, after seeing, & conversing with them.

Mr. Adet5 has been indirectly sounded on the coming over of the family of Fayette generally, but not as to the exact point—his answer was, that as France did not make war upon women & children he did not suppose that their emigration could excite any notice. The case however, might be different, if one of them (with his Tutor, whose character, conduct & principles may, for ought I know to the contrary, be very obnoxious) was brought into my family, & of course, into the company that visited it. But as all these things will be taken into consideration by you I shall not dwell upon them, and only add that

With esteem, regard & sincere Affn.   I am ever yours

Go: Washington

PS. I have no doubt but that young Fayette and his Tutor might be boarded at German Town or in the vicinity of this City, and would be at hand to receive assistance & advice as occasion might require although he might not be a resident under my roof.

Colo. Hamilton.

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; ADfS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.

1For background to this letter, see H to Washington, October 16, 26, November 19, 1795; Washington to H, October 29, November 10, 18, 1795.

2Washington’s letter to George Washington Motier Lafayette, dated November 22, 1795, reads: “It was with sincere pleasure I received your letter from Boston, and with the heart of affection I welcome you to this City.

“Considerations of a political nature added to those which were assigned by yourself, or Mr. Frestal of a sort more private, but not less interesting to your friends left no doubt in my mind of the propriety of your remaining incog until some plan advantageous to yourself and eligable for all parties could be devised for bringing you forwd. under more favorable auspices.

“These considerations, and a journey which I was in the act of commencing when I received your letter (and from which I have not long since been returned to this city) restrained me from writing to you at that time, but I imposed upon Mr Cabot a gentleman of character & one in whose discretion I could place entire confidence, the agreeable office of assuring you, in my name, of my warmest affection and support—of my determination to stand in the place of a father and friend to you—requesting him at the same time to make arragemts. with Mr. Frestal for supplying your immediate wants—and moreover that he would add thereto every thing consolatory on my part. All of which I now renew to you in the most unequivocal terms; for you may be assured, that the sincere, & affectionate attachment which I had to your unfortunate father, my friend & compatriot in arms will extend with not less warmth to you, his son; do not therefore ascribe my silence from the period of your interview with Mr Cabot to a wrong cause.

“The causes, which have imposed this conduct on us both, not being entirely removed, it is my desire that you, & Mr Frestal would repair to Colo Hamilton, in the City of New York, who is authorised by me to fix with you on the most eligable plan for your present accomodation. This gentleman was always in habits of great intimacy with, & is warmly attached to Mr. de la Fayette; you may rely therefore on his friendship and the efficacy of his advice.

“How long the causes wch. have withheld you from me may continue, I am not able, at this moment to decide but be assured of my wishes to embrace you so soon as they shall have ceased and that whenever the period arrives I shall do it with fervency. In the meantime let me begin with fatherly advice to you to apply closely to your studies that the season of your youth may be improved to the utmost; that you may be found the deserving Son of a meritorious father.” (ADfS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.)

Washington’s letter to Frestel, also dated November 22, 1795, reads: “The enclosed letter for Mr. Fayette is left open, and put under cover to you, for your perusal. Indeed it is intended as much for your information as his, as it will render a second letter in detail unnecessary, at a time when I am under a pressure of public business, occasioned by the approaching Session of Congress.

“To the above, I shall just add, that as the Preceptor, & friend of Mr. de la Fayette, I pray you to count upon my attentions & friendship; and learn that it is my expectation, that you wd. accompany him into whatever situation he may be placed; & moreover that you will let me know, at all times, what he has occasion for.” (ADfS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.)

3The word in brackets has been taken from the draft.

5Pierre Auguste Adet, French Minister to the United States.

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