Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Edward Jones, 30 July 1797

From Edward Jones1

Philadelphia July 30th. 1797

Dear Sir,

In my letter of yesterday,2 I mentioned an interview which I was to have with a person on the subject of the Conspirators. This interview has taken place. The person alluded to proves to be a Mr. Folwell by profession a printer,3 and whose character I am told stands sufficiently fair to give weight to his testimony. The facts which he offers to substantiate are as follows—The improper conduct of Mrs. R—— whilst a lodger at his Mothers house—her Confession to him that her husband wished her to prostitute herself for money—her sending for him after she had assumed the Name of Clingman and telling among other things, that she had married Clingman before she had been divorced from Reynolds—in short if we were to pursue the clue which Folwell can furnish, we might obtain a very curious history of the means employed by those Caitiffs to levy contributions on the public—but as our time will not permit us to extend our enquiries, it will be best to content ourselves with such facts as come within his own knowledge.

Folwell does not wish it to appear as if he had volunteered this business—he therefore requests that you would address him a line, stating that you had been informed of his being acquainted with some circumstances relative to Reynolds & his Wife, and requesting that he would make oath to what he knew—this you can do without mentioning my name or that of Fenno.4

The moment I cast my eyes on the Copies of the original documents of the proceedings of the famous Committee of enquiry5 I was enabled to account for their publication, admitting that the originals have not been resorted to—the fact is, they were transcribed by one of Beckley’s6 Clerks, who has very probably been directed to retain Copies of them.

Since writing the above, Mr. Folwell called on me and put into my possession the enclosed sheets,7 which upon a careful perusal I find to contain the most important information. You will observe by his letter to you on the back of this last sheet,8 that he wishes you to throw his communication into a better form, preserving however as much as possible the style, that the production may appear to be his own. This task I would have undertaken myself, but my health forbids the attempt. I have pledged myself to Mr. Folwell, that the rough draught shall be returned—you will therefore transmit it to me as soon as you have extracted everything useful to yourself. Preserve at all events, the anecdote of Mrs. R’s application to Govr. Mifflin & Secretary Dallas. Now that I mention Mifflin’s name, it is proper to inform you, he does not wish to recollect the fact referred to him in your publication—it has therefore been struck out.9

Just as I was going to close this long Epistle, Folwell called on me with a letter signed M. Clingman a copy whereof is enclosed. This letter proves two important facts—first—her hand writing—Second, her connection with Clingman. Altho the motives which have governed Folwell in making these disclosures are highly disinterested—I should much approve of some means being adopted to convince him of your sense of the service he has rendered to you. The mode is submitted to yourself. He appears to possess a wish, that his communications might be cloathed in language favorable to his talents as a Writer—it is but reasonable therefore that he should be gratified—it is his desire also that his information may be published in the shape of a letter.

With esteem   I am   Dr Sir   Yours &c

E. Jones

Colo. Hamilton

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

2Letter not found.

3In 1797 Richard Folwell wrote and published a Short History of the Yellow Fever, that broke out in the city of Philadelphia, in July, 1797; with a list of the dead; of the donations for the relief of the poor, and a variety of other interesting particulars (Philadelphia, 1797). He also published the Journals of Congress: containing their proceedings from September 5, 1774, to January 1, 1788, 13 Vols. (Philadelphia, 1800–1801). From 1805 to 1813 Folwell published The [Philadelphia] Spirit of the Press.

4John Fenno.

5From December, 1793, to May, 1794, a committee of the House of Representatives investigated H’s conduct as Secretary of the Treasury. See the introductory note to H to Frederick A. C. Muhlenberg, December 16, 1793.

6John Beckley.

7The “enclosed sheets” have not been found, but on August 12, 1797, Folwell sent the following statement to Jones: “Having observed, by a Perusal of the History of the United States, that Odium was levelled at the Character of Col. Hamilton, and hearing that he intended to answer the Charges, I thought I possessed the Knowledge of some Traits in the Character of the Persons with whom he seems to be in Company with in that Work, that would in some Measure remove, if known, the Imputations levelled at the public Character of that Gentleman. Wishing, therefore, to see Right prevail, and Innocence protected, I suggested my Knowledge of the most material Incidents that would render improbable, in my Opinion, the Imputations contained in that work. By your Request, I roughly summoned them up; and am sorry, lest some material Point does not strike my Mind, that these Details have never come to the Hand of Col. Hamilton. To remove, however, this Disappointment, I will invoke my Recollection, and enter on the Particulars.

“A few days after Mrs. Reynolds’ first appearance in Philadelphia, a Relation of hers requested my Mother to receive her for a few Days, into our House, as she was a Stranger in the City, and had come here to endeavour to reclaim a prodigal Husband, who had deserted her and his Creditors at New York. This was readily consented to when her innocent Countenance appeared to show an innocent Heart. Not more than two Days after she was at our House. She found her Husband was here—had been in Gaol, and was but just liberated. In a Day or two after she said, they had an Interview, but, could not come to Terms of Pacification. Her Mind, at this Time, was far from being tranquil or consistent, for, almost at the same Minute that she would declare her Respect for her Husband, cry, and feel distressed, they would vanish, and Levity would succeed, with bitter Execrations on her Husband. This Inconsistency and Folly was ascribed to a troubled, but innocent and harmless Mind. In one or other of these Paroxysms, she told me, so infamous was the Perfidy of Reynolds, that he had frequently enjoined and insisted that she should insinuate herself on certain high and influential Characters,—endeavour to make Assignations with them, and actually prostitute herself to gull Money from them. About five days after she first came at our House, Mr. Reynolds had an Interview; and we, while she commanded Commiseration, were induced to warn her to depart, that a Character so infamous as her Husband should not enter our House. She moved to a reputable Quaker Lady’s at No. —— North Grant Street; where they lived together; but, so the Family said, did not sleep together.

“Lately I have understood that Letters were frequently found in the Entry inviting her Abroad;—and that at Night she would fly off, as was supposed to answer their Contents. This House getting eventually too hot for them, they made their Exit. During the Period of their Residence there, she informed me she had proposed pecuniary Aid should be rendered by her to her Husband in his Speculations, by her placing Money in a certain Gentleman’s Hands, to buy of him whatever public Paper he had to sell, and that she would have that which was purchased given to her,—and, if she could find Confidence in his future Prudence, she would eventually return him what he sold. From this House, if I recollect, they made their Exit for a short Time from Philadelphia; but soon returned; and gave me an Invitation to wait on them at No. —— North Sixth Street. At this Time he wanted me to adventure with him in Turnpike Script,—to subscribe for which he was immediately to embark for Lancaster. The first Deposit for which was but trifling a Share—whether one or ten Dollars I do not recollect. Some considerable Time after (if necessary, Data can be procured) they removed and lived in stile in a large House in Vine Street, next to the Corner of Fifth. Here I had an Invitation, if I recollect, and being disposed to see if possible how People supported Grandeur, without apparently Friends, Money or Industry, I accordingly called. Mrs. Reynolds told me her Husband was in Gaol; and on asking her for what, she said he had got a Man to administer to the Estate of a supposed deceased Soldier and give him a Power of Attorney to recover what was due to him by the Public. That he had accordingly recovered it, but that incautiously and imprudently having given the Heir-Apparent an indemnifying Bond, that when the Soldier came to Life, the administration delivered the indemnifying Bond up to the real Heir, that then he was detected. That she said a Mr. Clingman, his Partner, was in the same Predicament. Before this Conversation was ended, in entered Mr. Clingman, to whom I was introduced. She referred to him for a more correct Narrative. But his Conversation seemed to me as if he wished to darken instead of throwing Light on this Information. He asked her what Luck she had in her Applications for Reynold’s Liberation? She said she had called on the Governor, Mr. [Thomas] Mifflin, and that he felt for her: Referred her to Mr. [Alexander J.] Dallas and that he felt also. She said she called on Mr. Hamilton, and several other Gentlemen; and that they had all felt.

“In a few Days after Reynolds was liberated, possibly in consequence of the Coincidence of Sympathy these Gentlemen had in Feeling. Here the Curtain dropt from my View, their Career, till perhaps a Year or two after Mrs. Reynolds wrote me a Letter to call on her at a very reputable and genteel Lodging House in Arch Street, No.  . In this note she apprized me of her Marriage with Mr. Clingman, which is annexed. Her Business she gave me to understand, was with me, to clear up her Character in East Nottingham, Cecil County, Maryland. That she lived there happily with Mr. Clingman, at the House of a Distant Relation of mine, till she had mentioned the knowing of our Family in Philadelphia; and that a Cousin of mine had given out that she must be the same Person who had left with her an infamous Character by the name of Mrs. Reynolds. She wished me to clear it up. I expostulated on the Inconsistency of this, that as it was bad before she had certainly increased it, as her Husband, Reynolds, I understood was alive in N. York. She said she had a Divorce; and that only one Fault she had incurred in her Change,—that she got married to Clingman one half Hour before she obtained the divorce. Since I have heard Nothing from her; only that she wrote me a very pathetic Letter—begging, as she was to return, that I would clear up her Character. This I have mislaid—but it would move any one almost to serve her, that was not perfectly acquainted with her Character, confirmed by actual Observation.

“I believe the Dates of these material Circumstances may be readily ascertained where necessary. I intended to digest the Confusion in which I throwed my former Observations that were mislaid. But you expressed Hurry. Had I a copy of that, this should be better arranged. The Same Reason of Hurry induces me to submit that this may be sent to Colonel Hamilton as it is. Relying that he will Retrench and improve—allowing me to alter what may not be agreeable to myself. My Brother told me, when he was in N. York, a young Man of good Character before,—Clerk to Henry Manly of this City once) was hung in N. York for Forgery. That he saw his Dying Speech—that it said, he was deluded by Clingman and Reynolds to the Fact for which he was to suffer. Mr. Hamilton can ascertain this.

“It is now two o’Clock on Sunday Morning. I am sleepy. I shall have Opportunity to do, with Mr. Jones’s Approbation and my own, what Defect may be here, that Col. Hamilton with this may not entirely do.” (Hamilton, Intimate Life description begins Allan McLane Hamilton, The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1910). description ends , 473–76.)

Allan McLane Hamilton states incorrectly that Folwell’s statement was addressed to C. W. Jones.

8Letter not found.

9In the draft of the “Reynolds Pamphlet,” August 25, 1797, there is no reference to Mifflin.

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