Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from John Rutledge, Junior, 17 July 1800

From John Rutledge, Junior1

New Port [Rhode Island] July 17th. 1800.

Dear General

The result of a very industrious enquiry I have made here respecting the presidential election is, that ’tis quite problematical how it will issue in this State. I find the people in general very much devoted to Mr Adams, from the mere circumstance I believe of his being an eastern man, & at the same time jealous & suspicious of you in the extreme; saying you possess an influence in the middle & southern States which is to be used to produce in them a plurality of suffrages for Genl Pinckney—that your opposition to Mr A has its source in private pique—if you had been appointed Commander in chief on the death of Genl W you would have continued one of Mr A’s partizans2—that by your contrivance3 the federalists lost the election at N York—that you are endeavouring to give success to Genl P.’s election because he will administer the government under your direction—with a great deal more nonsense of this kind, & which is too absurd to obtain credit but among the jealous & suspicious little people of this little State. I have endeavoured to remove these impressions from the minds of gentlemen I have conversed with: to impress them with a conviction of the necessity of dismissing all local prejudices & personal predilections in the present Crisis, & by an honest & honorable cooperation of the federalists in the eastern States supporting Genl P equally with Mr A, & trusting to fortune for the result of this homogeneous vote. ’Tis impossible to ascertain the effect of my advice, for you know I have to do with Gentlemen who are so prudent as never to give direct answers or positive assurances. As soon as it was known at Providence I had arrived here Mr Jno Brown4 sent me a pressing invitation to visit him immediately, & said he wished to communicate with me on the subject of the election. In consequence of my informing him I could not go to Providence with any kind of convenience till Mrs R who ⟨had⟩ the hourly expectation of being confined was so, the old Gentleman cam⟨e d⟩own yesterday & had an hours conversation with me. He desired me to declare ⟨for⟩ the information of his friends, he said, whether I really thought Mr A would have the Votes of So Carolina. I told him I had on my return there fulfilled the promise I made at the Caucus held at Philada., & used every exertion within my power to induce the federalists to suport Mr A equally with Genl P—that our election of a Legislature would not take place before October & ’twas impossible to say with any kind of certainty what wd be the result of an election so distant—that I believed however if it should be a fortunate one Mr A & Genl P would be voted for together, & it was also to be hoped, from the great affection borne to Genl P by People of all descriptions in his own State, that even in the event of having an antifederal Legislature he wd be voted for. Brown asked if the federal electors in No Carolina would vote for Mr A; I told him it might be depended upon. He seemed pleased with this information—said we might rely upon P’s getting all the votes in this State—that Govr Fenner5 & Senator Foster6 were hostilely disposed towards him, but that they were trimmers, & the People knowing that if the Governor was elected an Elector he wd vote for Mr A & Mr Jefferson, they would not elect him one. Mr Champlin7 holds the same language, & tells me this State will certainly vote for both the federal Candidates: His Uncle (Mr Geo Champlin)8 who is an influential character, & was an Elector at the two last Elections, is disposed to support them equally. In a conversation I had with him on the subject he seemed much displeased by some speeches which are said here to have been made by you in your late Tour,9 & said he thought if any thing wd justify Mr A’s friends for giving the go by to Genl ⟨P. it⟩ wd be knowing of the Plot you had contrived for excluding Mr A. ⟨I told⟩ him there were doubtless conflicting partialities conceived towards that Gentleman by their respective friends, but I supposed the electoral Colleges would disregard all local & private considerations—support principles in prefference to Men, & that the federal Electors would vote for those of the Candidates who would, most probably, administer the government in an honest, sensible, and systematic manner. I saw lately an intelligent man from Massachusetts who seemed quite au faite of the politics of that State, & who told me Mr A and Genl P wd certainly be voted for together. I find they are there split into three parties—the antifederal which will support Jefferson exclusively—the middlesex which is composed by lukewarm feds & Mr A’s private friends, & the Essex party10 which proceeds upon true federal principles, availing itself of the two chances of getting a federal President, & will support equally the two Candidates. The Essex party I learn is very powerful, & likely to give the Ton. Messrs Dexter,11 Otis,12 Cushing13 & Gerry14 will, I understand, make vigorous efforts to have P omitted in the federal Ticket, to give Mr A. a chance of being returned before him; but I am confidently assured they will be outwitted by the Governor,15 Messrs. Ames,16 Sedgwick,17 Cabot,18 Goodhue19 & their friends.20 The President it is said has commenced a hot canvas for himself, &, by his civility & condescension, is endeavouring to be supported with Mr Jefferson by the Jacobins: But his Countrymen are too cunning I suspect to be duped by him—his project will turn out like the story of setting a Thief to catch a Thief, &c.21 The yankey Jacobins have too much cunning to be seduced into any combination which will jeopardize the election of Mr Jefferson. The boston Papers are filled with electioneering addresses & Squibs & it appears by them that Mr A’s friends are attacking Mr Ames with great acrimony as the reputed author of some essays in which the propriety & expediency of supporting Genl P are much insisted on.22 I enclose two Strips from a Boston paper received by this days mail, & from their contents you will see the Adamites are omitting no pains to inflame & mislead public opinion respecting Genl P. Your plan for prevailing on the maryland Electors to discard Mr A from their Tickets will not, I suspect, be practicable. I know Mr Carrols23 influence is great, but I do not believe it will be so operative in the present case as you seem’d to imagine. I know that Mr Stoddert,24 Mr Craick,25 & Judge Chase26 are personally attached to Mr A, & I also know that Genl Smith27 & Mr Dent28 (altho Democrats) wd support him under the hope of excluding Genl P. I believe for these reasons, & many others which I cannot bring within the compass of an epistolary communication, that your project cannot be executed in Maryland—but I believe it may, without any kind of difficulty, in Delaware or Pensylvania. In the last conversation I had with Mr Bayard29 he told me if it should be found advisable to omit Mr A in the Tickets of Delaware he could have it done, & I believe he wd, upon receiving the information you gave me relative to Mr. McHenry’s going out of Office.30 The Governor (Basset)31 is all powerful in Delaware, & he is very much influenced by his Son in Law Bayard. I take the liberty of enclosing you a letter I recd from Mr Bayard shortly before leaving Charleston that you may be correctly informed how Mr A stands in Delaware. Mr Ross32 the Senator of Pensylvania I know regards the re-election of Mr A as an event which will disjoint the federal party and the election of a gentleman with Genl P’s firmness & decision of Character as the only thing which can in the existing Crisis work out our political salvation. Ross is all powerful with our party in Pennsylvania—you may confide in him & depend upon him. As I have been very precise in my narration of the information collected here, & mentioned the names as well as the projects of Mr A’s partizans I request, my dear General, this communication may be deemed private & designed for your Eye exclusively. When you are sufficiently at leisure to favor me with a few lines I will be greatly obliged by your informing me what are our prospects in Jersey. Our friends in Carolina are desirous of knowing from me what will probably be the state of the Jersey vote, & tis a subject on which I have no information, & I cannot obtain any here. Will the New York vote be democratic in toto? I have heard so ever since the late Election, but here they say ’tis possible Genl P may have some of the New York votes. Mrs Rutledge desires me to present you with her respectful regards, & we unite in praying you will proffer the homage of our esteem to Mrs Hamilton. That god may long continue to preserve in perfect health of mind & body a life so inestimable as yours is to our Country, is the sincere, & fervent wish, & hope, of dr General

Yr much obliged & humble Servant

Jno Rutledge, Junr.

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Rutledge, a South Carolina lawyer, planter, and Federalist, served in the state House of Representatives from 1778 to 1794 and in the United States House of Representatives from 1797 to 1803.

For background to this letter, see the introductory note to H to Theodore Sedgwick, May 4, 1800.

2George Washington had died on December 14, 1799, while he was serving as “Lieutenant General and Commander in Chief of all the armies raised, or to be raised, in the United States” (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 284). Adams did not promote H to that post, although at the time H was the ranking major general; instead, Adams left the post vacant. See H to Rufus King, January 5, 1800, note 12.

3Although H was probably the state’s leading Federalist, no evidence has been found that he took an active part in the campaign.

4John Brown, a Federalist merchant of Providence, had supplied the Continental troops with food and clothing during the American Revolution and served in the House of Representatives from 1799 to 1801. He was a trustee of Brown University and a partner of John Francis in the firm of Brown and Francis.

5Arthur Fenner.

6Theodore Foster, a Providence lawyer and Federalist, was a member of the state House of Representatives from 1776 to 1782 and the United States Senate from 1790 to 1803. Foster was Fenner’s son-in-law.

7Christopher Champlin, a Rhode Island merchant, was a Federalist member of Congress from 1797 to 1801.

8In 1785 and 1786 George Champlin, a Rhode Island merchant, had been elected to, but did not serve in, the Continental Congress. He was opposed to the decision not to send delegates from Rhode Island to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and he was a member of the state Ratifying Convention in 1790.

9For H’s New England trip, see the introductory note to H to Benjamin Stoddert, June 6, 1800.

10For information on the “Essex party,” see H to Stoddert, June 6, 1800, note 7.

11Samuel Dexter.

12Harrison Gray Otis, a Boston Federalist and lawyer, was United States attorney for the District of Massachusetts from 1796 to 1797 and a member of the House of Representatives from 1797 to 1801. Otis was an admirer of H, but in 1800 he supported Adams’s bid for re-election to the presidency.

13William Cushing, a Massachusetts Federalist, was a judge of the Massachusetts Supreme Court from 1775 to 1777 and chief justice of the same court from 1777 to 1789. He was a member of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention in 1779 and president of the state Ratifying Convention in 1788. He was an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1789 until his death in 1810.

14Elbridge Gerry, a Massachusetts merchant and a member of the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War, began his political career under the Constitution as a Federalist. On June 20, 1797, President Adams appointed him a member of the XYZ mission to France. Following criticism by members of his party because of his conduct in France, he became a Republican. In 1800 he was the Republican candidate for governor of Massachusetts, but he was defeated by Caleb Strong.

15Moses Gill was elected lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 1779. Following Governor Increase Sumner’s death on June 7, 1799, Gill served as governor until June 3, 1800, when he was succeeded by Strong.

16Fisher Ames, a Federalist and a lawyer from Dedham, Massachusetts, was a member of the House of Representatives from 1789 to 1797, when he resumed his law practice in Dedham. In 1799 he became a member of the Governor’s Council. Although he endorsed H’s political and financial policies and was opposed to Adam’s peace mission to France in 1799, he supported Adams in the election of 1800.

17Theodore Sedgwick, a Massachusetts lawyer and Federalist, was a member of the House of Representatives from 1789 to 1796 and from 1799 to 1801. He was a member of the United States Senate from 1796 to 1799.

18George Cabot, a Massachusetts merchant, had been a member of the United States Senate from 1791 to 1796. In 1800 Cabot held no public office and was living on his farm near Brookline, Massachusetts.

19Benjamin Goodhue, a Massachusetts merchant and Federalist, was a member of the House of Representatives from 1789 to 1796 and the United States Senate from 1796 to 1800. Goodhue broke with Adams over the President’s appointment of his son-in-law, William S. Smith, as brigadier and adjutant general. See Timothy Pickering to H, July 18, 1798, note 4.

20On August 15, 1800, Ames wrote to Thomas Dwight, a member of the Massachusetts Senate: “… How, then, the Adamites can make up a face to charge the Essex Junto with opposing Adams, and how they can hope to carry his election against the friends of Pinckney in the South, is to me inconceivable. When they fail, they will charge their failure on the Essex Junto, who recommended union for Adams and Pinckney, and not on the Jacobins, who will bring about the event” (Seth Ames, ed., Works of Fisher Ames [Reprinted: New York, 1971], I, 279–80). See H to Stoddert, June 6, 1800, note 7.

21This is a reference to rumors that Adams had reached an agreement with certain Republicans to assure his re-election in 1800. See Sedgwick to H, May 13, 1800, note 3.

22No conclusive evidence has been found that Ames was the author of the articles to which Rutledge is referring.

On July 5, 1800, an article appeared in the Columbian Centinel. [Boston] Massachusetts Federalist signed by “A Massachusetts Federalist,” which reads in part: “Mr. Adams’s political principles constitute an essential part of his glory, and are instructive to his country. No one will suggest that it is his desire that we should abandon them. Through his life he has been willing to act and suffer for his country, and never that the country should suffer for him. It is the Federal cause and not any federal man that claims our exertions.… With all the strength of the Federalists, it does not appear that we have a single vote to spare. By scattering jealousies and railing accusations, it is next to inevitable that we shall divide, and many votes be lost. The terrible consequences will then be certain; we shall have a Jacobin President.… Join then and vote for two such Federalists as will secure all the votes that can be obtained to prevent the Presidency of a Jacobin. The Federal cause, which involves in it property and liberty, and that has a price in money and a price beyond it, must have all the chances it can have. It would be treachery to give it less. No candidate however (and however justly) a favorite is entitled to any better chance than may consist with the safety of that cause. It would be servility in some, treachery in all to give it more. The two objects are not necessarily in opposition and may be pursued together. By this proceeding we may save the cause by keeping out a Jacobin President, and we may also secure the favorite candidate.” On July 12, 1800, in the same paper, a writer who signed himself “Suffolk” attributed the earlier article to Ames and stated that Ames’s motive was not to secure Adams’s election, but to exclude Adams from the presidency in preference to Pinckney. Articles similar to “A Massachusetts Federalist” appeared in the Columbian Centinel. [Boston] Massachusetts Federalist on July 19, August 16, 20, 1800.

23Charles Carroll of Carrollton.

24Benjamin Stoddert.

25William Craik, a native of Maryland and a lawyer, was appointed chief justice of the Fifth Judicial District of Maryland on January 13, 1793, and he served in that position until 1796, when he resigned. In 1796 he was elected as a Federalist to the House of Representatives to fill Jeremiah Crabb’s term. Craik was twice re-elected and served until 1801.

26Samuel Chase had served in the Maryland Assembly from 1764 to 1784. He was elected to both the First and Second Continental Congresses, serving from 1774 to 1778, and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He voted against the adoption of the Constitution in the Maryland Ratifying Convention. Chase was chief judge of the General Court of Maryland from 1791 to 1796 and an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1796 until his death in 1811.

27Samuel Smith, a veteran of the American Revolution and a well-to-do Baltimore merchant, was a Federalist until the controversy over the Jay Treaty, when he became a Republican. He was a member of the House of Representatives from 1793 to 1803.

28George Dent, a veteran of the American Revolution and a Republican from Maryland, was a member of the House of Representatives from 1793 to 1801.

29James A. Bayard, a Federalist lawyer from Delaware, was a member of the House of Representatives from 1797 to 1803.

30For James McHenry’s resignation, see McHenry to H, May 20, June 2, 1800.

31Richard Bassett was governor of Delaware from 1799 to 1801. He had been a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and he served as a United States Senator from 1789 to 1793, when he became chief justice of the Delaware Court of Common Pleas. As a presidential elector in 1796 he had voted for Adams.

32James Ross, a Pennsylvania Federalist and lawyer, was one of the Federal commissioners appointed in 1794 to negotiate with the insurgents during the Whiskey Insurrection. From 1794 to 1803 he was a member of the United States Senate.

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