Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from John Skey Eustace, [20 November 1798]

From John Skey Eustace1

[New York, November 20, 1798]

Dear General,

It had totally escaped my recollection that, in reading the “Embassy of Mr. Monroe”, you would want to see the Dramitis Personæ unmasked. I shall annex them to the unepistolary leaf of this sheet, and now ⟨ven⟩ture to express a hope, that you will not be offended with any part of the enclosed reply to a Philadelphia Jacobin. The scouted paragraph was in these words: “By way of Postscript, let all the plundered churches be noted at bottom.”2

You will feel, my dear Sir, with me that no man in his senses would announce to a Minister of State the Conquest of towns and cities, which had not been subdued by him; nor the Dedication of their Squares, unless they had really been consecrated to Washington. I might therefore have pretended ignorance of any Squib in a Philadelphia paper, until it was republished in the gazette3 which conveyed my ⟨sentiment⟩ to the Public; or I could very consistently have refered Mr. Brown’s4 readers to Colonel Pickering, to whose doubts and censures I was alone subject: but our Public is so singularly composed—so peculiarly prying and credulous in the traffic of scandal—so constitutionally potent to condeming as a mass, by the political charters of our country; and so constitutionally impotent to defend as individuals from their almost Gallic levity, that I could not withhold the refutation I have offered them. My situation and my views being alike questionable, with the very class of our citizens to which I am, and must long remain, perfectly unknown—I have felt more alive to inuendo than generally consists with the rank I bear, or with the conscious integrity I boast.

A stranger in my native City, the most purgatory (I might say hellish) of all positions; bereft of counsel or example to guide or guard me in my march through hostile bands of lurking Assassins—the avowed Author of a Project tending to unfold the conduct of all our travelled delinquents, so that our very widows consider it a duty, next after the panygric of their departed Lords, to restrain or ridicule my truth-searching endeavors: under these auspices, I am not to be judged with the herd of those who approach the Government, to fatten on its precious gifts; who intrude on the Public, to captivate their lucrative suffrages.

You, I well know, will judge me as you would any other Person in the same situation; and that you may (if you will Kindly take the trouble) empannel a ministerial Jury, equally impartial, I send you enclosed a Letter which speaks for itself. My Squiblists have not yet been taught, that in France, as in England and Holland, I regularly published my official and private correspondence5 well knowing I sh⟨ould⟩ otherwise have been pestered with as many queries, as there were honorable facts in the Series ⟨of⟩ Events comprising my history when abroad.

May I request you, General, to do me the favor to hand the printed Letter to General Wash⟨ington⟩ as a small tribute of veneration for his character? If he still views me only as the Aid-de⟨camp⟩ and friend of general Lee (though I had never officiated after their difference, and ceased even to rank, as a mem⟨ber of⟩ his Suite, prior to the rupture) let Washington at least be informed that this friend of Lee was ⟨then an⟩ Admirer of Washington; that this once aid-de-camp and Heir, resigned and abjured a proferred ⟨fortune⟩ rather than abandon, at Lee’s desire, the sterile appointment of extra-aid-de-camp to governor ⟨–⟩ or the filial duties which he owed to the Father of his country, two acts, which were ⟨– –⟩ as the purchase-money of Lee’s American possessions—and thus were they finally disposedof.⟩ Of these truths, his original (though unknown) Letters, in my possession, are the indisputable testimony That I since abandoned the military rank now held by our commander in Chief, with appointments equal to those of the second Magistrate of the union, on the vague insertion in a French paper of his Proclamation of Neutrality,6 is no Evidence, perhaps, of a personal attachment—yet to obey, under such circumstances of age and ambition, has some merit, on the score of patriotism—and this must erect one barrier against censure or aversion from the then chief of this Empire—or I have yet to analyze, what I have so long revered on trust.

Pardon this long letter, and believe me very respectfully yours

Jo S Eustace

Barclay Street No. 80,
20th. November 1798.
Major-General Hamilton.

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1For background to this letter, see Eustace to H, October 27, November 3, 1798.

2Eustace is referring to the following item printed in The Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser on November 13, 1798: “A correspondent will be glad to know, through the medium of this paper, the names of the ‘Towns and Citieswhich were conquered by General Eustace, to the principal squares of which he gave the name of Washington.

“By way of Postscript, let all the plundered churches be noted at the bottom.”

In this response, dated November 17, Eustace wrote: “He will forward to Major-General Hamilton, by to-morrow’s mail, a printed copy of a letter addressed by him to [Charles François] Dumouriez, his commander in chief. It is dated from Antwerp, the 14th March, 1793, and was then published in that city. If the most pointed attack on this General, for the robberies and disorders committed by his army, is an evidence of conscious probity; if the highest encomiums or ‘the immortal Washington,’ to heighten the crimes of Dumouriez; if to boast of all the civic virtues, declaring them ‘common to all his countrymen,’ be a testmony of attachment to America or to her Saviorguardian; if to tell Dumouriez, in this same Letter, when surrounded by hords of lawless assassins; when the head of a French General Offices scarcely held by a single hair; if to declare, at so trying, so awful a moment, ‘in all the cities where general Eustace has planted the Tree of Liberty, the street of Dumouriez leads to the square of WASHINGTON’; if the most grateful assurances of respect from his serene highness prince Frederick of Hesse Cassel, governor-general of Maestricht; and from Lieutenant-general the Baron of Reidesel, commanding in chief the Brunswick auxiliaries in that garrison of the Dutch frontier, be admitted as a proof of regard for the allies of the United States, when placed at the mercy of the French army he commanded; if more than an hundred Letters, Poems and Memorials, from Bishops, regular Abbots, Superiors of Convents and Seminaries, replete with tributes of gratitude and veneration, (long after the passage of his troops) be considered as a sufficient barrier against the poinard of a lurking traitor; if special authority to visit and reside in Nunneries of noble Ladies, and others of the most austere orders, by an unsolicited licence from their episcopal patron, be regarded as a patent of virtuous manners; if to guard, even in absence, the persons and property of the English carmelite Nuns of Liere, at the risk of life and honor (after war had been proclaimed by France against their nation, and their effects declared a forfeit to their Foes) and daringly to command, by a public proclamation, the execution of any commissary or other Agent who should attempt even the seizure or sequestration of their fortunes, can place an officer above reach of public censure, as a sacrelegious plunderer; if joined to the original, and to the then published documents of these facts, he shall (and he will) jointly remit to general Hamilton the most irrefragable proofs that, when invested with more than dictorial powers, he performed a conquering march through a vast extent of territory, through populous towns, and wealthy cities, without the exaction of one livre of tribute; and not only without incurring the slightest whisper of reproach or discontent on his personal conduct, or on that of the detached army he commanded; but, on the contrary, that the grateful benedictions of one million of captives have been bestowed on him —(since he reti[r]ed from the service of France in August 1793) and that, in these evidences of attachment consists the sole recompense or profit he has ever derived from his services—at home or abroad: if these truths obtain due credit, enough has been said—to satisfy the Public of America.

“General Eustace will cheerfully submit to the perusal of any of his fellow-citizens, who read French, all the documents here alluded to: they were prepared as a Legacy for General Hamilton, should any accident have happened to the present proprietor in his projected voyage; and to this officer he the more confidently refers, because he had kindly consented to receive this pledge of confidence and of respect—it is only to a man of this exalted merit, that an officer who has attained to any distinction abroad, as a general, and a knight of a military order, could safely confide his fame: where envy and jealousy are excluded by valor, by genius and philanthrophy, there, only there, can the virtuous citizen sleep securely under his vine or his fig-tree?

“General Eustace having offered his services to Major General Hamilton, as a volunteer aid-de-camp, no additional reason need be assigned, for his non-appearance on regimental parade with his patriotic fellow citizens: and this patient and detailed narrative can leave no doubt with the public, of the very profound deference which he pays to their suffrage—a deference the more unequivocal, as they have not within their gift or power, one single thing, against which he would exchange one single moment of his domestic comforts.” (The New-York Gazette and General Advertiser, November 17, 1798.) In the Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress, there is a newspaper clipping of this article, along with a copy of Eustace’s printed letter to Dumouriez. On a blank page at the end of the printed letter H wrote: “General Eustace a very unwelcome correspondent.”

3An extract from the essay by “A Philadelphia Jacobin” was printed in The New-York Gazette and General Advertiser, November 17, 1798.

4Andrew Brown, publisher of The Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser.

5John Skey Eustace, Official and Private Correspondence of Major-General J. S. Eustace, Citizen of the State of New-York; Aide-de-Camp to General Lee and General Sullivan; Colonel and Adjutant-General in the Service of Georgia, During The American War: and Maréchal-De-Camp in the Armies of The Republic of France. Part 1 (Paris: Printed by Adlard and Son, 1796).

6For Eustace’s resignation, see his letter to the National Convention, August 8, 1793 (Réimpression de L’Ancien Moniteur. Seule Histoire Authentique et Inaltérée de la Révolution Française … [Paris, 1847], August 20, 1793). For George Washington’s proclamation of neutrality, April 22, 1793, see John Jay to H, April 11, 1793, note 1.

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