Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Amanda Coe, 2 September 1796

From Amanda Coe

New York, September 2, 1796⟩. Encloses ten dollars and asks for Hamilton’s assistance in securing her release from prison.1

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Amanda Coe had been found guilty of forgery in the New York Supreme Court in May, 1796. Soon afterwards the Court made the following ruling: “The people vs. Amanda Coe. On Conviction of Felony, Forgery & uttering &c. The Crime of which the prisoner was convicted appearing to have been committed before the Statute entitled an Act making alterations in the criminal Law of this State and for erecting State prisons was passed, and the said prisoner praying openly that sentence might be pronounced against him according to the provisions of the said Statute thereupon it is Ordered and adjudged that the said Convict be imprisoned for life in the State prison to be built in the City of New York, and that until the State prison aforesaid shall be built and ready for the reception of prisoners the said Convict be confined in the Goal of the City and County of New York” (MS Minutes of the New York Supreme Court, January 19–November 5, 1796, under the date of May 7, 1796 [Hall of Records, New York City]).

Amanda Coe was sentenced according to the provisions of “An Act making alterations in the Criminal law of this State, and for erecting State Prisons,” which reads in part: “And that every person who shall hereafter commit and be duly convicted or attainted of any other felony now punishable with death for the first offence, except the crime of stealing from a Church, shall instead of being punished with death be punished with imprisonment for life in one of the State Prisons herein after mentioned; and the justices who shall give judgment in any such case shall upon consideration of all the circumstances thereof adjudge the offender to imprisonment only, or to be kept in the said prison to hard labour or in solitude or both” (New York Laws, 19th Sess., Ch. XXX [March 26, 1796]). This act superseded “An Act for preventing and punishing Forgery and Counterfeiting,” which stipulated that offenders be sentenced to death (New York Laws, 11th Sess., Ch. XX [February 7, 1788]).

H endorsed this letter: “Amanda Coe Sept. 2, 1796. Answered I could do nothing more in her affair & sent back her money.” H’s letter has not been found.

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