Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from George Cabot, 29 November 1800

From George Cabot

Brookline [Massachusetts] Novr. 29. 1800

My dear sir

It is too late to use the letter you enclosed me1 in Vermont & here it is unnecessary. I am satisfied the votes in this State & New Hampshire will be all for A & P.2 you will have seen with some pleasure that our Legislature have conducted in the manner was predicted by our friend Mr. Lowell junr3 —to his efforts indeed much of the success may be attributed. Some fears are entertained lest the Electors in Rhode Island, tho’ decidedly federal, will not all vote for P——. to avert such a misfortune Ames4 has written earnest expostulations which will be communicated to the Electors or some of the influential ones, & Mr. Mason5 who will be at Providence on Monday carries with him a copy of a letter just received by me from Mr. Wolcott6 containing a paragraph from Judge Washington7 extremely well calculated to induce a fair & equal vote for Pinckney in New England.

admitting that your friends are “dismay’d” by your letter concerning Mr. A it is nevertheless possible you may be right in publishing it. I am of opinion that no publication of the kind cou’d have been well received at this time in any part of the U S & this opinion is manifestly supported by the fact—

“truths woud you teach or save a sinking land

all shun, none aid you & few will understand.”8

So said the man who had more good sense than commonly falls to the lot of a Poet. I don’t think the case exactly parallel, yet I cannot omit to remind you of “Burke’s Reflections”9 which were reprobated almost universally when they first appeared10 —even those who approved the Sentiments thought the avowal of them imprudent & the publication of them untimely. I wish some one, who is more in the world than I am & who feels, if possible, as much interest in every thing that affects you as I feel, wou’d furnish you with correct information of all the opinions which are expressed by sensible men & especially by your friends; while I cannot conceal that some of these wou’d be unpleasant to hear I am persuaded that most of them are explicable on the principle of human nature & do not in the smallest degree inculpate the writer. men are easily made angry with the messinger of ill News—& they who love their ease listen with great impatience to those who tell them they must no longer indulge it. some who felt great dislike to Mr. Adams are disappointed that you have treated him with so much moderation, they opened your book with the expectation of seeing Mr. Adams convicted of designs to involve the country in war with G B that he might thus secure to himself the support of those numerous but mistaken people whose animosity to Britain is ardent & inveterate. they expected you wou’d describe in just but glowing colours his pernicious jealousy of Washington’s superior merits & fame, & the intolerance of such a spirit toward all men who enjoy a great degree of public confidence. they expected you wou’d have analysed him so effectually as to prove that he is & must be but little attached to the support of public credit & the rights of property, & that his ideas respecting Commerce & the use it may be put to in our foreign politicks are more unsound than even Jefferson’s or Madison’s—in a word that war with England privateering & paper money with all their baneful appendages & consequences are viewed by him not as evils to be deprecated but resources to be preferrd to that stable condition aimed at by the Washington System which he hates & which he has been constrained by circumstances to support. Yet the men who looked for all this acknowledge it wou’d have been highly impolitic & injudicious if you had executed it. There are others, but they are not numerous, who think you have done too much already in the crimination of Mr Adams—all agree that the execution is masterly, but I am bound to tell you that you are accused by respectable men of Egotism, & some very worthy & sensible men say you have exhibited the same vanity in your book which you charge as a dangerous quality & great weakness in Mr. Adams. I shou’d have left it to your Enemies to tell you of the Censures of your friends if I was not persuaded that you cannot possibly mistake my motives or doubt of the sincerity of my affection or the greatness of my Esteem.11

Yours faithfully

George Cabot

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

2For information concerning the presidential campaign of 1800, see the introductory note to H to Theodore Sedgwick, May 4, 1800.

3John Lowell, Jr., a Federalist lawyer and the son of Judge John Lowell, represented Boston in the Massachusetts General Court from 1798 to 1800. He was Cabot’s nephew.

4Fisher Ames.

5Jonathan Mason.

6Oliver Wolcott, Jr.

7On November 1, 1800, Bushrod Washington wrote from Charleston, South Carolina, to Wolcott: “We are all thunderstruck here by Genl Hamilton’s pamphlet.… It is feared that the effects of this attack upon Mr Adams will be seriously exhibited in the Eastern States & particularly in Massachusetts. It may excite doubts in the minds of those disposed to support Genl Pinkney with Mr Adams whether the friends of the former will every where & more especially in this State observe equal good faith toward the latter. Such apprehension ought at once to be dispelled, and on this account I have thought it prudent to communicate to you the probable & indeed the almost certain votes of this State upon this subject.

“From the returns which have already come in, it is reduced almost to a certainty that the majority of the two houses of the next Legislature will be federal. The statements which I have seen are made … by Genl [William] Washington Mr. [Henry] Desaussure, Mr. [Joseph] Ward & others upon a personal & positive Knowledge of the members upon whom they count.

“Should this be the case the consequence will be that Mr. Adams & Genl P. will obtain all the votes of this state. The leaders & influential members of both houses & those too much attached to Genl P. are firmly resolved to promote by every mean in their power the election of Mr Adams & to procure for him so many votes as for Genl P. They consider themselves imperiously urged to pursue this conduct by the soundest principles of good faith & of good policy. Genl. P. himself acts upon this subject in a manner which all who know him would expect—like a man of honor.

“If H’s pamphlet is likely to have the effects in Massachusetts which are apprehended, it is a pity but that they should as speedily as possible be counteracted. It is most clear that shd distrust take place between the friends of the two federal candidates, all must end in the election of Mr. J.—which God forbid.” (ALS, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.)

8Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man, Epistles to a Friend (London: Printed for J. Wilford, 1733–1734), Epistle IV, lines 265–66. The second line actually reads: “All fear, none aid you, and few understand.”

9Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, and on the Proceedings in Certain Societies in London Relative to that Event. In a letter intended to have been sent to a gentleman in Paris (London: J. Dodsley, 1790).

10Among the best known criticisms of Burke’s Reflections is Thomas Paine, Rights of Man: Being an Answer to Mr. Burke’s Attack on the French Revolution. By Thomas Paine, Secretary for Foreign Affairs to Congress in the American War, and Author of the Work Intitled Common Sense (London, 1791).

11On November 28, 1800, Cabot wrote to Wolcott: “Writing to Mr. H, I have taken the liberty to inform him that some of his respectable friends censure him for displaying too much egotism & vanity in his book. I know how difficult it is for a man to be told of his faults without offence, but I was encouraged to do what I thought a necessary service by the belief that he cannot possibly mistake my motive or doubt either my affection or esteem—if I have materially diminished his friendship, it will be a new spur to my cynical feelings which already exceed those of Diogenes” (ALS, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford).

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