Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from John Skey Eustace, [27 October 1798]

From John Skey Eustace1

[New York, October 27, 1798]


As I find myself obliged to make a voyage to Georgia,2 where some important concerns demand my attention, I have a favor to ask of you—it is simply that you will permit me to depose in your care (and to offer you as a humble legacy, if I do not return) a trunk containing all my papers, as well personal as official.

Though it has so happened, that nothing like private friendship or confidence could ever exist between us (I allude to the untoward circumstance of our attachment to Chiefs who were at variance)3 yet I am not sensible that any action of my life could justify your aversion for I can truly declare, not only that Colonel Hamilton has ever possessed my esteem, but my good will and good wishes—I should say very much more were I not addressing him personally—so that I auger no censure from him on the object or terms of this letter. When you reflect, Sir, on the boyish period of my life, 1775, when general Lee first won my esteem, neither its force or direction can excite reproach. If you consider that I was then the heir-declared of his fortune,4 and that I formally disclaimed, four years thereafter, this proffered boon5 (and this shall be proved to you) from motives of patriotic submission to the Commander in Chief; when you combine with these facts, the successive assaults on my family rights at home; a long residence abroad; a dangerous service in France, and an unmerited check to my fortune in the rival State; if, Sir, you take the trouble to cast a comprehensive glance over these various and coefficient causes of irritation, whatever warmth of character I may, at any time ⟨have displayed⟩ in my public and ingenious opinions of men or measures here, will deserve your commiseration, rather than provoke your censure. I may cite the late example of Mr. Jay,6 who receivd and visited me with friendship, nay affection, under a due impression of these facts.

My present efforts being wholly destined to solace the aged and parental members of my family, you will be assured, Sir, that it is not to the influential general Hamilton, but to the private Citizen that I address myself. From the first I cannot honorably receive or patronage or favor, because I feel that I do not deserve either: On the legal talents and personal sympathy of Mr. Hamilton I consider that I have a collateral claim with my uncle, whose cause he has generously consented to advocate7—and under this alone shall I offer a tribute of grateful attachment. And here I am called on to relate an anecdote which cannot displease you, whilst it is a debt I owe to the candor and friendship of Mr. Brockholst Livingston.

I called on this gentleman, after your return from Philadelphia, to consult with him on the expediency of resorting to the Court of Errors in the case of my uncle. I told him that I felt less restraint in conferring with him than with Colonel Hamilton, because I had never been acquainted with him; and, under existing circumstances, might not be well received: besides, that I had a rooted aversion to appearing at the levee of any man, who had places or pensions at his disposal. His reply was exactly in these words. “It is a duty you owe to your uncle, to yourself, and above all to colonel Hamilton, to pay him a respectful and confidential visit. He is indisputably the most distinguished member of our Bar; he has generously protected general Campbells claim; he has, therefore, an undoubted right to every mark of gratitude from you—nor will he misinterpret the object of your visit. It is true, there is no man in this country who so strongly unites the power with the wish to patronize every citizen who has a just title to his friendship or humanity; yet, he must think, however disinterested his general motives, that some testimony of this sort is due from those whom he has so essentially servd. Do me, therefore, the favor to wait on him and refer to me for a professional consultation on general Campbell’s affairs.”

This communication, Sir, needs no commentary and will serve to account for the two visits I made to you. To the governor alone have I made any other—and, except Mr. Livingston’s, I have not had one, of consequence, to repay!

Thus, Sir, you are presented with a full detail of my private conduct since my return. As it is wholly negative, you must feel that [it] is exhibited not to secure your esteem, but to shew that I have done nothing which can prove ⟨an⟩ obstacle to the attainment; you will therefore accept the sincere assurance of my respectful and grateful attachment.

J. S. Eustace

Will you have the goodness to tell me, how I can best dispose of the Papers relative to Mr. Monroe’s imbassy?8 and in what manner I can most properly attest their authenticity?

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Eustace, who was born in Flushing, New York, was graduated from William and Mary College in 1776. During the American Revolution, he attained the rank of major and served as an aide-de-camp to Major General Charles Lee, Major General John Sullivan, and Major General Nathanael Greene. In 1781 he became adjutant general of Georgia, and three years later he was admitted to practice law in that state. In 1784 Eustace went to Europe and in 1792 he joined the French army. He served as an aide to Marshal Nicolas Lückner and General Charles François Dumouriez and attained the rank of major general and maréchal-de-camp. Eustace was expelled from France and England in 1797 and from the Netherlands in 1798. On June 22, 1798, the House of Representatives read a memorial from Eustace “praying that he may receive the commutation of half pay due to him for military services rendered the United States, during the Revolutionary war with Great Britain …”(Journal of the House description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826). description ends , III 347–48). On July 10, 1798, the House resolved that Eustace “have leave to withdraw his said memorial” (Journal of the House description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826). description ends , III, 380). For Eustace’s earlier effort to receive such compensation, see JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XVII, 462.

2The purpose of Eustace’s trip to Savannah was to settle his mother’s business affairs (Albert Matthews, “General J. S. Eustace,” Notes and Queries for Readers and Writers, Collectors and Librarians, CL [January, 1926], 49).

3This is a reference to the court-martial concerning the conduct of Charles Lee at the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. As a result of H’s testimony against Lee, Eustace tried unsuccessfully to draw H into a duel. See “Proceedings of a General Court-Martial for the Trial of Major-General Charles Lee,” July 4, 13, 1778; Hamilton, Intimate Life description begins Allan McLane Hamilton, The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1910). description ends , 280–81.

4On February 26, 1777, Lee wrote to George Washington: “Eustace I consider as my adopted son, considering the circumstances of his being taken out of other hands and his affection for me, I ought to look upon him in this light—in short should any accident happen to me, it has long been my resolution to leave everything I possess on this side of the water, between these two young men [Eustace and Jacob Morris]” (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress). Morris was also one of Lee’s aides during the American Revolution.

5On December 13, 1779, Eustace wrote to Lee: “I am perfectly tired of having my peace of mind disturbed by the daily alterations in your temper—I therefore am determined to withdraw myself from their influence. I’ve no idea faith of battling your cause, on every occasion with civil and military, adding to the number of my own Enemies,… To your friendship Sir, I bid adieu—of every connexion with you—I take leave with a painful kind of pleasure” (Matthews, “Eustace,” 46).

6In the “Embassy of Mr. Monroe,” printed in The New-York Gazette and General Advertiser on August 24, 1798, Eustace wrote, over the signature of “An American Soldier,”: “… by the candor and magnanimity of Governor [John] Jay, in a recent instance have I become enabled to serve my country with confidence—and to lay aside a previous determination to abandoning it forever. How far my fellow citizens may be benefitted by my publications of the Facts respecting Mr. [James] Monroe, or by my presence among their defenders, time alone can decide.”

7Eustace’s uncle was Colonel Donald Campbell, who had been deputy quartermaster general of the New York Department from 1775 to 1784.

H and Brockholst Livingston were Campbell’s attorneys in the case of Donald Campbell adsm. Joshua Sands, James Barron and Sarah Malcom. H made the following entry in his Cash Book, 1795–1804, under the date of May 12, 1796: “Donald Campbell Dr. to … [Account of Costs and Fees] … for perusing papers & arguing cause in Chancery Adsm. Executors of Malcolm 25” (AD, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress). On December 15, 1797, the New York Court of Chancery ordered that “the Register of this Court [Peter R. Livingston] deliver to James Hughes Esquire the Master to whom this Cause is referred the Original Bond mentioned in the Readings in this Cause to have been executed by the Defendant and one Malcolm Campbell to Cornelius Lynsen and by the said Cornelius Lynsen assigned to William Malcom the Complainants Testator bearing date the sixteenth day of November in the year of Our Lord One thousand seven hundred and sixty five and filed with the said Register as an Exhibit in this Cause. And further Ordered that upon payment by the Defendant of the principal Interest and Costs reported to be due to the Complainants the said Master deliver up the said Bond to the said Defendant to be cancelled” (MS, Minutes of the New York Court of Chancery, 1793–1797 [Hall of Records, New York City]).

8On August 9, 1798, over the signature “An American Soldier,” Eustace wrote the following letter to Archibald McLean and John Lang, the editors of The New-York Gazette and General Advertiser: “I shall offer you, gentlemen, in the first moment of leisure, several Facts respecting the Embassy of Mr. Monroe—occasioned by the shameful silence on the outrage on our People and Government, in the Speech of Citizen Barras; and his more shameful defence of the French Directory, by his late publication. It will be shewn, that the unwarrantable censure he has aimed at Mr. Jay, belongs exclusively to himself and to his negociators: that the Author of this paper, when he saved him—perhaps from condign punishment in this country, did not suppose him the Agent of France, but of America; or he would then have suffered him to appear the Author of Gen. [Charles Cotesworth] Pinckney’s rejection, and the Cause of the impending contest—for he will now be proved to have provoked it” (The New-York Gazette and General Advertiser, August 14, 1798). Eustace is referring to the speech made by Paul François Jean Nicolas Barras, the president of the Directory, to James Monroe on December 30, 1797. For this speech, which Barras delivered when Monroe presented his letters of recall, see Uriah Tracy to H, March 23–24, 1797, note 4. Monroe’s book, entitled A View of the Conduct of the Executive, in the Foreign Affairs of the United States, Connected with the Mission to the French Republic, During the Years 1794, 5, & 6 (Philadelphia: Printed by and for Benjamin Franklin Bache), was published on December 21, 1797. See the [Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser, December 29, 1797. Eustace’s articles, entitled the “Embassy of Mr. Monroe” and signed by “An American Soldier,” appeared in The New-York Gazette and General Advertiser on August 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 31, September 1, 4, 6, 7, 1798.

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