Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from James Ricketts, 24 June 1796

From James Ricketts1

Elizabethtown [New Jersey] June 24, 1796. “Enclosed are the extracts of Mr. Jackson’s letters, which you desired me to send you.”2

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Ricketts, a New Jersey businessman, had been a director of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures.

2John Jackson’s two letters were written from London on March 4, 1794, and March 2, 1796, and refer to litigation over the will of Peter Van Brugh Livingston, Ricketts’s father-in-law, who had died on October 16, 1792. Ricketts had married Sarah Livingston in 1777.. The extract dated March 4, 1794, reads: “The Question which you ask me concerning the good old Gentn. Mr. Livingstons claim—I answer, to the best of my recollection, that as he could not have recovered it in any other mode, from Jacob, it was secured through your means, as a present to dear Mrs. R—in that settlement, and, her Father became exonerated from his engagements on your general accounts—he was to be fully indemnified—but, if he hath not noticed this in his Will, I fear the Executors will endeavour to establish the claim against you, unless they will rely upon our evidence as to the facts at the time, you should represent them to Philad—as they really occurred, with my concurrent testimony.…”

The extract dated March 2, 1796, reads: “… when I was settling the Old Gentn. claim against your Brothers and yourself … he mentioned to me repeatedly it was merely a matter of form to ascertain what was due, as the amt. should be for Mrs. R—and, the Children—I never considered it, but, as so disposed of by him, for, most assuredly he Confirmed it in my presence, in my situation, I cannot get out to make any affidavit before the Lord Mayor of the fact … and, as that, is the only authority, I apprehend, which will answer your purpose, I cannot, I am sorry to say, comply with it, but I shall be ever ready to give that testimony of the Fact, as it really occurred, and, as Mr. ph: Livington I presume, knows my writing you may show him this declaration.…” (copies, in Ricketts’s handwriting, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.)

As attorney for Ricketts, H prepared a draft of a declaration to be filed during the July, 1796, term of the New York Supreme Court (ADf, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress). The declaration, however, was not filed until May 22, 1798, and on April 1, 1799, in the New York Circuit Court the jury found “… a Verdict for the Plaintiffs Two thousand and ninety dollars and eighty six Cents debt and six Cents damages and six Cents costs” (H’s Law Register, 1795–1804 [D, partially in H’s handwriting, New York Law Institute, New York City]; MS Minutes of the New York Circuit Court, 1796–1799 [Hall of Records, New York City]). The cause was tried before Justice James Kent at the March, 1800, Circuit and “… a verdict was taken for the plaintiff, subject to the opinion of the court, as to the admissibility and effect of the evidence” (William Johnson, Reports of Cases Adjudged in the Supreme Court of Judicature of the State of New-York; from January Term 1799, to January Term 1803, both inclusive; together With Cases Determined in the Court for the Correction of Errors, during that period [New York: Banks, Gould & Co., 1848], II, 97–98). Under the heading of “July Circuit 1800,” H made the following entry in his Cash Book, 1795–1804: “James Rickets for Trial & Argument of Cause v. Philip Livingston decision in his favor 100” (AD, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress). For the report in favor of the plaintiffs in October, 1800, see 2 Johnson, Cases, 98–102.

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