Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from William North, [12 November 1799]

From William North1

[Duanesburg, New York, November 12, 1799]

You were right, My dear General, in saying that a Soldier should have no Other wife than the service; & I will add, that he should have neither children2 nor landed property, nor be a guardian, nor a director of a turnpike road,3 nor plaintiff, nor defendant against a rascal who every day brings fresh actions, for seven years together.4 Either of these things forms an impediment sufficient to make one loose sight of the point of view, but when they are combined they so twist & turn a man head & heels, that it is almost impossible for him to get forward in any line whatever; to suppose that he can, in the new French method, look straight forward & keep his alignement, is nonsense. In truth, was it not for the point of honor, which like a will o’ the wisp intices’s him to the front, & the prick of ambition which goads him in his rear, he never would advance at all.

Fortunately, I have cleared my way of every thing but my Wife & Children, with whom, as it would be unsoldierly to abandon them, I hope to be in New York by the 25th of this month, & when there, I shall do whatever Heaven & Your Honour may think best for the service of our dear Country, without further let, or hinderance.

Please to Offer my respects to Mrs Hamilton, & believe me to be Dr General,   Your Obt Hbl Servt

W North

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1For background to this letter, see North to H, September 18, 1799; H to North, September 26, 1799.

North, who served throughout the American Revolution and was an aide-de-camp to Baron von Steuben, held the rank of major and inspector of the Army from 1784 to 1788. He was a member of the New York Assembly in 1792, 1794, 1795, and 1796, and was speaker in 1795 and 1796. From May 5, 1798, to August 17, 1798, he was a United States Senator, filling the vacancy which had been created by the resignation of John Sloss Hobart. See John Jay to H, two letters of April 19, 1798. On July 19, 1798, North was appointed adjutant general of the United States Army with the rank of brigadier general (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 293).

2North was the father of three daughters and three sons. He married James Duane’s oldest daughter, Mary, in September, 1787, and moved to Duanesburg, New York, in 1788.

3North was a commissioner and director of the Great Western Turnpike Company established by the New York legislature on March 15, 1799 (“An Act to establish a Turnpike Corporation for improving the State Road from the house of John Weaver in Water-Vliet, to Cherry-Valley, and to repeal the act therein mentioned” [New York Laws, 22nd Sess., 2nd Meeting, Ch. XXX]).

4This is a reference to the dispute over land between James Duane, North’s father-in-law, and John Voght. For an account of the cases and the individuals involved, see Abraham Van Vechten to H, September 16, 1797; North to H, June 4, 1797.

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