From Rufus King
London July 7. 98
Buena parte has made the Debut of the campaigne by the easy tho important conquest of Malta.1 This Island has been supposed impregnable and therefore was the Depositary of great wealth removed there from Italy. It contained likewise an excellent arensal, two or three ships of the Line, and as many as 6.000 excellent Seamen. It was the maltese Seamen who made the fine campaign under Suffrein in the E. Indies during the American war.2 Sicily is near and from thence the french will obtain Provision shd. Ad. Neilson attempt to blockade the fleet in the Harbour of Malta.3 Buena Parte may perhaps take possession of Sicily, after which Naples would almost fall of course. We are left to conjecture what are his ulterior Plans. I dont perceive that it is believed that the Eng. Squadron can owing to the tempests of those seas, maintain a long Blockade. At Rastadt procrastination is the game4—the french journalists amuse themselves with calling it “the Eternal Congress.” I see no likelihood of a concert upon the Continent agt. france. The struggle is left to England, who certainly maintains it with increased zeal & Resolution for some months past. We hear not a word about peace, no one appears to think that peace would bring safety. The affair of Ireland is nearly finished.5 Cornwallis6 has requested that no more troops shd. be sent him, and that those on their way shd. be countermanded. In this state of things we are (for so I consider our Situation) forced into the war—a war of Defense. Have you recd. a former letter of mine on this subject.7 It is of infinite importance that we are not deceived by ourselves or others. We must do more than merely defend. I still think the object that I have before suggested demands all our consideration, wisdom and Energy. Dont suppose that I would combine our fortunes with those of others; on the contrary whatever our interest may require in regard to a cooperation with others I am averse to indissoluble engagements with any one. The Continent of Europe cannot be saved—but this is no reason why America shd. likewise perish. France is the only nation that projects enterprizes or succeeds in putting them in Execution—all others are puzzled in a perpetual Effort to find out & defeat the Plans of France without concerting and attempting to execute one that might give to france the Disadvantage of Defence. If we follow this course I dread the issue.
farewell yrs. &c
I am mortified with the probable result of the Elections of New york. Mr. Jay according to probabilities is reelected,8 but how very considerable has been the Opposition. Besides what is to become of us if we return such Members to Congress as I think it likely will compose a majority of our next Delegation?9
AL, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
2. Pierre André de Suffren de Saint-Tropez, a French naval commander and a member of the Maltese order, accompanied Charles Henri Hector, comte d’Estaing to America in 1778. In 1780 his naval command captured twelve British ships and in 1781 defeated the British in a naval battle near the Cape Verde Islands. In 1782 in the East Indies he conducted a successful campaign against Admiral Sir Edward Hughes.
4. The Treaty of Campo Formio, concluded between France and Austria on October 17, 1797, provided for a congress at Rastatt to make peace with the German empire. The congress which met in December, 1797, lasted—despite the lack of accomplishment—until April, 1799.
6. On June 12, 1798, “… Marquis Cornwallis was appointed Lord Lieutenant and Commander in Chief in Ireland” (The [London] Times, June 14, 1798). On July 1, 1798, Cornwallis wrote to Major General Robert Ross: “[Henry] Dundas wrote to me to know whether we wanted all the regiments they were sending to us, and I have in answer assured him that in my opinion we had not the least occasion for them …” (Charles Ross, ed., Correspondence of Charles, First Marquis Cornwallis [London: John Murray, 1859], II, 355). On July 14, 1798, The [London] Times reported: “He [Cornwallis] is Governor-General in Council, as well as Commander in Chief. His authority is paramount.…”
8. Although New York’s gubernatorial election was held in the first week of May, 1798, the canvass was not completed until the middle of the following June ([New York] Argus. Greenleaf’s New Daily Advertiser, June 12, 13, 1798). John Jay was re-elected over Robert R. Livingston by a vote of 16,012 to 13,632 (Werner, New York Civil List description begins Edgar A. Werner, ed., Civil List and Constitutional History of the Colony and State of New York (Albany, 1891). description ends , 207).