Certificate by James Monroe1
[Philadelphia, August 16, 1797]
I hereby certify that it was not my intention to give any sanction to, or opinion of my own, as to the entry which bears my single signature, in the papers containing an enquiry into Colo. Hamiltons conduct, by messrs. Muhlenburg Venable & myself in 1792, but that I meant it to stand on the credit of Mr. Clingman only upon whose application the entry was made. Phila. Augt. 16. 1797.
ADS, Lloyd W. Smith Collection, Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, New Jersey.
1. For background to this document, see the introductory note to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., to H, July 3, 1797. See also Monroe to H, July 10, 16, 17, 18, 21, 25, 31, August 6, 1797; H to Monroe, July 10, 17, 18, 20, 22, 28, August 4, 9, 1797; William Jackson to H, July 24, 25 31, August 5, 7 (two letters), 11, 1797; James McHenry to H, August 7, 1797; “David Gelston’s Account of an Interview between Alexander Hamilton and James Monroe,” July 11, 1797.
Although H had already indicated to Monroe (H to Monroe, August 9, 1797) that he had withdrawn his challenge for a duel, Monroe nevertheless prepared the certificate printed above. On August 6, 1797, Monroe had written to Aaron Burr that he had no objection to making a statement. See Jackson to H, August 5, 1797, note 5. On August 13, 1797, Burr wrote to Monroe: “The enclosed from Col. H. was left with me I believe on friday—it requires no comment.” If Burr received any document written by H on Friday, August 11, 1797, it has not been found. Burr continued: “I have again read over the correspondence [between H and Monroe] & wish it all burnt; which I hope and believe will be the result. If you and Muhlenburgh really believe, as I do, and think you must, that H is innocent of the charge of any concern in speculation with Reynolds, It is my opinion that it will be an act of magnanimity & Justice to say so in a joint certificate. You expressed to me the same idea when we were together here. This is, and should be treated as a distinct thing from any personal impropriety of Conduct to you. Resentment is more dignified when Justice is rendered to its’ object—but this remark is now illtimed. I take your personal differences to be settled & they had best remain so. I enclose you a Sketch of what would appear to me to suffice as a Certificate in Case you shall choose to give one—should such be your determination, send it to me by return of Mail” (ALS, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California). The sketch of a certificate which Burr enclosed was probably the following, dated August, 1797: “we certify that, in consequence of Information which we received in December 1792 of a concern in speculation between A H. then Sec. of the T. and one J. Reynolds, we had an explanation on the subject with said A. H. who by that explanation supported by written documents satisfied us that the above charge was ill founded as we declared to him at the time: That the impression under which we left him of our being so satisfied was reciprocal and is still the same” (quoted in Samuel H. Wandell and Meade Minnigerode, Aaron Burr [New York, 1927], I, 283).
Monroe, however, did not take Burr’s advice and prepared instead the certificate printed above. No evidence has been found that Monroe ever sent it to H.
But on August 16, he did send the certificate to Burr with the following covering letter: “Accept my acknowledgments for yr. attention to the affr. with Colo. H. I have been very sick but am well agn. or nearly so. I set out tomorrow on my way home. “Now that there is no prospect of a challenge (I mean in perspective) from Colo. H., I feel myself at liberty to give a certificate which will I presume satisfy him. It wod. have done so when here. It contains a decln. that I meant to give no sanction to or opinion of my own as to the entry made by myself. Had he sought this in a conciliatory manner I wod. always have given it. But he sought it in a manner wh. left me under an impression that if I did not give it, he wod. challenge me, & therefore I wod. give none & waited his challenge. He did not take that course but used harsh language &ca as you know. If I cod. give a stronger certificate I wod. (tho’ indeed it seems unnecessary for this with that given jointly by Muhg. & myself seems sufficient) but in truth I have doubts upon the main point & wh. he rather increased than diminishd by his conversation when here & therefore can give no other. I give it upon the principles you state from motives of candour & unconditionally. “upon the other point I own to you I am not satisfied. I did not mean to give or provoke a challenge it is true, but yet I did mean to accept one if given in any form. I ask’d him a direct answer to a plain question, whether he meant his as such or not, & to this he does not give a direct answer; but plays upon the word advance, in a manner I do not like. I must therefore request you to ask him explicitly whether he meant his former letter as a challenge, under any possible state of my mind, and in case he did not accept it for me, under the accomodation stated in my former letter. “My state of health will not permit me to pay more attention to this subject at present. I submit the whole affr. to yr. discretion being fully convincd that you will conduct it with a delicate & inviolate regard to my honor. I give you full command over it. I enclose you the whole of the correspondence assuring you that I will ratify whatever you do for me. “Mr. Dawson remains here a week & will receive & forward any commands for me that time—my address is at charlottesville, in wh. neighbourhd. I reside.” (AL, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, New York).