Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Justus Erich Bollmann, 13 April 1796

From Justus Erich Bollmann1

Philadelphia April 13. 1796


A few days ago I had the pleasure to inclose You a copy of a letter which I had written to the President of the United States.2 In consequence of that I was called on Friday last to the State office, where Mr. Pickering told me that the President had some inclination to make a new effort to relieve the Marquis, and desired me at the same time to communicate to him by writing my Ideas on this subject. This occasioned a letter to the Secretary of State,3 of which I take the liberty to send You again a Copy, repeating once more that I always shall be very glad if You will enable me to regulate my Conduct with respect to myself as well as to the marquis, after your advice!

It was impossible not to have myself in view when I wrote the 8th paragraph of the inclosed letter,4 but I am so much convinced of what it asserts being essential and strictly true, that I would have written it exactly the same were I myself entirely out of the question!

It would be precious if this message were connectible with some other commercial and political object; it would be advantageous even, because the principal object, being in somewhat a secret one, would be more covered! I have received great kindness and attention from Prince Henry,5 when I was in Germany, and I am personally acquainted with the two sons of Count Bernstorf;6 of which the eldest is envoy extraordinary at the Court of Berlin!

I have the honor to be with the highest esteem   Sir   Your most obt. & hbe. st.

J. Erich Bollmann
170 Market street

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1For background to this letter, see H to George Washington, January 19, 1796.

2Bollmann to Washington, April 10, 1796 (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress). Bollmann’s letter to H, presumably dated April 10, 1796, enclosing a copy of his letter to Washington, has not been found.

3Bollmann to Timothy Pickering, April 10, 1796 (copy, in Bollmann’s handwriting, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress). In this letter Bollmann gave his “Ideas respecting the means that might be used in order to rescue Gen. Lf. from imprisonment.”

4The eighth paragraph of Bollmann’s letter to Pickering reads: “It appears to me that the success of these new endeavours to rescue the General from imprisonment will in a great measure depend on the choice of a person sufficiently calculated for this purpose. The better he is acquainted with Gen. Lafayette, his character, his merits, the attachment which this Country at large and the President personally bears to him; the more fully he is informed of the causes of his Captivity, and the disposition of those on whom his fate depends; the better he will be able to furnish in Copenhague and Berlin the Data for the application to be made at Vienna. And besides I think it may be advisable to choose in preference a person well acquainted with the German language and some connexions in the Country where he is to be send to, because, the necessity of taking various kinds of information, and of maintaining a secret intelligence in Vienna and Olmütz with the friends of the marquis; the great advantage that may arise from the opportunity of making through these friends some communications to the Marquis himself; and the occasion there may be for employing other persons in order to assist the marquis and to receive him after he has been furnished with an opportunity to absent himself—all these circumstances together make such knowledge of the German language and such connexions in the Country where the marquis is imprisoned, of no trifling importance to a desirable Completion of this business!” (copy, in Bollmann’s handwriting, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress).

5Prince Henry of Prussia, brother of Frederick the Great.

6The two sons of Count Andreas Peter von Bernstorff, Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs and President of the German Chancery, were Count Christian Günther von Bernstorff and Count Joachim Frederik von Bernstorff. The former had been Danish ambassador in Berlin from 1791 to 1794. When this letter was written, he was ambassador in Stockholm. The latter was Secretary for Foreign Affairs in Copenhagen from 1793 to 1798.

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