Alexander Hamilton Papers

Speech on Congressional Election in New York City, [21 April 1802]

Speech on Congressional Election
in New York City1

[New York, April 21, 1802]

General Hamilton has again appeared on the election ground. He found it necessary to harrangue the merchants at the Coffee House on Wednesday last, who view the little General as a God, on the prospect of success in the Second District. He expatiated largely we are told on the persecution, as the General was pleased to term it, sustained by Mr. Sands,2 the federal candidate of the Second District for Congress. The General was evidently of opinion, consistently with his general politics, that a man ought never to be removed from office but for mal and corrupt conduct. This is a branch of that doctrine which the General advocated in the Federal Convention,3 and which was received by the assembled multitude of calculating merchants with silent approbation. He conjured them to throw off that sluggishness which had been imposed upon them by their defeat; and declared that, if they were not entirely inert, they could not fail of success against Col. Broome in the Second District. It was with great pleasure, he said, he could declare, that the Second District was principally peopled by gentlemen, whose correct notions of order and good government exalted them above the grovelling democracy of the times. He rejoiced that it is not, like the 6th and 7th wards, absorbed in jacobinism. When the General reflected on the deluded condition of those two wards, he was oppressed with grief. Beside, there was something so unutterably offensive in the idea of a Carman voting contrary to the opinions of the gentlemen by whom he was employed, that no friend of the doctrines of the old school could view it with patience. Nevertheless, he saw no remedy for the evil. Every expedient that human ingenuity could suggest had been tried to correct the mischief. In 1798–9 the merchants entered into a resolution to employ no man who would not vote for the federal ticket. This resolution was rigorously carried into effect.4 And yet such was the stubborness of the Carmen, that not one of the profession was found to yield to the superior opinions of those gentlemen, who benevolently furnished them with means of support. Failing in this attempt, he had given up all hope of restoring the Carmen to order and good government. And hence prudence dictated that they should make no opposition to Dr. Mitchell in the Third District. The meeting accorded with these sentiments, and each federal man felt a common sympathy for those words.5

[New York] American Citizen and General Advertiser, April 24, 1802.

1This document is a Republican account of a speech that H delivered at a meeting of Federalists at the Tontine Coffee House to nominate candidates for the New York Senate from the Southern District of New York, for the state Assembly, and for the House of Representatives from the Second and Third Congressional Districts of New York (New-York Evening Post, April 21, 1802). The Southern District of New York, which consisted of Kings, New York, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, and Westchester counties, was entitled to nine state senators. The City of New York was entitled to nine Assembly members elected at large by the seven electoral wards. The Second Congressional District consisted of Kings and Richmond counties and the first, second, third and fifth wards of New York City. The first, second, and third wards contained the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city and extended from the Battery to a northern boundary line formed by Reade and Chambers streets. These three wards, along with the less wealthy fourth ward of the Third Congressional District, were Federalist strongholds well into the nineteenth century. The Third Congressional District of New York was composed of the fourth, sixth, and seventh wards of New York City which were located north of Reade and Chambers streets and were inhabited by middle and lower income groups that consistently voted Republican.

The Federalists nominated Samuel Jones to run for the the New York Senate in the Southern District of New York against the Republican nominee, John Schenk, and Joshua Sands to run against John Broome for Congress in the Second Congressional District. Jones, an attorney from Oyster Bay, New York, served as comptroller of New York State from 1797 to 1800 and was a member of the New York Senate from the Southern District from 1791 to 1799. Schenk, a native of Queens County, was a member of the state Senate from the Southern District of New York from 1792 to 1796 and from 1798 to 1806. Sands, a veteran of the American Revolution and a New York City merchant, served in the New York Senate from 1792 to 1799 and as collector of customs for the District of New York from 1797 to 1802. Broome, a New York City merchant, was president of the New York City Chamber of Commerce from 1785 to 1794 and a member of the New York Assembly from 1800 to 1802.

The Federalists did not nominate any candidates to run against the Republican slate for the Assembly or against Samuel L. Mitchell, the Republican incumbent in the House of Representatives from the Third Congressional District of New York (American Citizen and General Advertiser, April 23, 1802; New-York Evening Post, April 27, 1802). Mitchell, a physician and a member of the New York State bar, served in the state Assembly from 1791 to 1798 and in the House of Representatives from 1801 to 1804, when he was elected to the United States Senate.

2On July 9, 1801, Thomas Jefferson appointed David Gelston to replace Sands as collector of customs at New York. See Gelston to H, April 14, 1802, note 1.

4On April 27, 1799, the day before the polls opened in New York City for elections to the state legislature, an article appeared in the [New York] Argus. Greenleaf’s New Daily Advertiser, a Republican paper, which stated that a Federalist tailor named Mosey had suggested “to terrify the cartmen, if possible, not to vote for the republican ticket, and to hold to them the threat of being deprived of employment, if they did not comply with the wishes of the tories.…” On June 5, 1799, Robert Troup wrote to Rufus King: “My good friend we have at last prevailed upon the merchants to exert themselves. In the last election they were especially useful. They told the cartmen that such of them as supported the democratic ticket would be dismissed from their employ—The consequence was we had a strong support from the cartmen” (ALS, New-York Historical Society, New York City).

5Although the New-York Evening Post did not print H’s speech, on April 26, 1802, it carried the following criticism of the American Citizen’s version of the speech: “We should not have taken notice of the fabrication in Saturday’s Citizen of a speech put into the mouth of Gen. Hamilton, so much as even to contradict it, because we did not think that any person in this city gave it the least credit; but we have had cause, this morning, to perceive our mistake. A well meaning man was just now at the office who expressed his surprize that Gen. Hamilton should have made of such expressions as were there ascribed to him. It seems, therefore, proper to declare that the whole of the speech given as his by the Citizen, is the invention of a man utterly regardles[s] of truth. He did not in the course of what he said once allude in the most remote degree, to any particular wards, or any particular class of men in the city. His address was of a general nature: He took a very summary view of the leading measures and disposition of our present administration; as being excessively weak, impolitic, disorganizing & unconstitutional, tending to expose the country to intestine discord & open invasion. It was his opinion that the peace in Europe, even if completed, could not be of long continuance, and that in the event of a war, this country would be likely to get involved; and he then asked, what must be our situation without money in the Treasury, and without a revenue? He spoke of the additional exposure to which we should now be liable from the French in possession of Louisiana. On the whole, he thought the present state of things, both at home and abroad, such as to justify the most alarming apprehensions. He therefore called on the friends to good order, to stable government, to that system of measures which had brought us to what we were, to rally on this occasion and express their opinion by voting for a man of correct principles and sound judgment.”

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