Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Abraham Van Vechten, 16 September 1796

From Abraham Van Vechten

[Albany] September 16, 1796. “In the Causes of Mr Duane1 agst. the Tenants of Voght2 two Questions are likely to arise, on which I am directed to request your opinion as early as possible. The inclosed is a Copy of the only Writing which Mr Duane has from the Patentee to vest the Title in him.3 Quer. Does a legal Title pass by it, so as that we can recover on Mr. Duanes sole demise? In one of the Causes the Ancestor of Defts was a Tenant for Years of Mr. Duane. He died a Year or two ago & left Defts. in his possession, who agreed to deliver it up to Mr Duane by a certain Day. On the Day appointed Mr. Duane sent a person to receive the possession, who met the Defts. at the Door on a Cart going off with their last Load of Furniture &c. The Defts. declared they delivered up the possession to the person sent by Mr Duane, and then rode away. When Mr Duane’s Agent or new Tenant came up to the Door of the House he found Voght & another person in it, by whom he was deterred from entering it. Thus situated Mr Duane’s Agent &c went off & informed his principal that he could not obtain the possession, as a few Days after Defts. reentered as Tenants under Voght. Quer. Are not Defts. Precluded by their original Tenancy from controverting our Title? Their Transactions with Voght savour strongly of Fraud & Collusion.…”

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Before the American Revolution, James Duane had been an attorney in New York City. During the war he was a member of the Continental Congress. He was mayor of New York City from 1784 to 1789, a member of the New York Senate from 1782 to 1785 and from 1788 to 1790, a member of the New York Ratifying Convention, and United States judge for the district of New York from 1789 to 1794. He owned a large estate named Duanesburg in the vicinity of Schenectady, New York.

2This is a reference to a protracted dispute between Duane and John Voght. The Voght family owned the Thomas Brain Patent on the eastern border of Duanesburg. During the American Revolution the Voghts sided with the British, and Duane attempted to purchase their property. The Voghts not only retained their lands but also claimed some farms on the Duanesburg side of the line. It was not until April, 1803, six years after Duane’s death, that his family were victors in this dispute in the case of Maria Duane v John Voght before the New York Supreme Court. See the endorsement on “Subpoena to William Cockburn,” March 7, 1803 (DS, Detroit Public Library).

Under the date of October 15, 1796, the following entry appears in H’s Cash Book, 1795–1804: “this sum received of James Duanes fee in his controversy with Voght 100” (AD, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress).

3“Lieutenant John Butler. Conveyance to James Duane for 2000 Acres of Land he is entitled to by Virtue of the royal Proclamation of 7th October 1783” (DS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress).

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