From Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Annapolis 18th April 1800
I am obliged to you & Mr. Church1 for your polite attention in giving me the information contained in your letter of the 25th. past,2 not that I am anyways interested in the sale of Mr. Sterretts land,3 for until the receipt of yr. letter I did not even know that he possessed any land in that part of the country, & of course was never in treaty with his trustees about it. I hope Mr. Church will secure the repayment of his large claim, tho’ it must be the work of time, should he purchase the tract for $92,000.
We have strange reports circulated among us respecting the prevalence of Jacobinical principles in your State; it is asserted with confidence by the antifederal party here, that all your electors will vote for Mr. Jefferson as President; if such an event should really happen, it is probable he will be chosen; of such a choice the consequences to this country may be dreadful. Mr. Jefferson is too theoretical & fanciful a statesman to direct with steadiness & prudence the affairs of this extensive & growing confederacy; he might safely try his experiments, without much inconvenience, in the little Republick of St. Marino, but his fantastic trickes would dissolve this Union. Perhaps the miseries of France & more especially the Government of Buonaparte may have weaned him from his predilection for revolutions. I once saw a letter of his, in which among several others was contained this strange sentiment “that to preserve the liberties of a people, a revolution once in a century was necessary.”4 A man of this way of thinking, surely may be said to be fond of revolutions; yet possibly were he the chief Magistrate he might not wish for a revolution during his presidency.
I beg my respects to Mrs. Hamilton & to be kindly remembered to General Schuyler.5 I am with very great regard & esteem
Dear Sir Yr. most hum. Servt.
Ch. Carroll of Carrollton
ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
1. John Barker Church.
2. Letter not found.
3. Both Joseph and Samuel Sterett owned tracts of land in the Genesee country in western New York, and it is impossible to determine to which tract Carroll is referring in this letter. Joseph Sterett owned at least twenty-five thousand acres (see “The Award,” signed by David A. Ogden, H, and Thomas Cooper, January 22, 1801 [copy, Gemeentearchief Amsterdam, Holland Land Company. These documents were transferred in 1964 from the Nederlandsch Economisch-Historisch Archief, Amsterdam]. This document is printed in full in the forthcoming Goebel, Law Practice description begins Julius Goebel, Jr., ed., The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton: Documents and Commentary (New York and London, 1964– ). description ends , III). On May 4, 1797, Robert Morris conveyed one hundred and seventy-five thousand acres to “Saml. Sterett, to secure the payment of the Balance which I owed to him, and to Harrison and Sterett …” (Robert Morris, In the Account of Property [King & Baird, Printers, No. 9 Sansom Street (Philadelphia), n.d.], 3).
Joseph and Samuel Sterett were Baltimore merchants, and in 1794 they became naval agents at Baltimore (Henry Knox to H, July 9, 1794). Samuel Sterett was also a member of the House of Representatives from 1791 to 1793. Following the failure of his business in Baltimore, Samuel Sterett established a partnership in Philadelphia with George Harrison, a merchant in that city. In addition, as a lobbyist for the six Dutch banking firms which formed the Holland Land Company in 1796, he attempted to secure legislation to enable them to hold land as aliens in New York. See H to Théophile Cazenove, January 22, 1796, notes 2 and 3. See also Morris to H, June 7, 1795, note 37.
4. Carroll is referring to Jefferson’s letter to William S. Smith on November 13, 1787. In this letter, Jefferson, discussing Shays’s Rebellion, wrote: “We have the 13. states independant 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & a half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s natural manure” (ALS, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress).
5. H’s father-in-law, Philip Schuyler.