William P. Van Ness’s Narrative of the Events of June 25, 18041
At nine O clock on Monday the 25th Inst: I called on Genl Hamilton at his house in Cedar Street to present the letter No 42 already alluded to, and with instructions for a verbal communication of which the following Notes No 73 handed me by Mr Burr were to be the basis. The substance of which though in terms as much softened as my instructions would permit, was accordingly communicated to Genl Hamilton.
Before I delivered the written communication with which I was charged4 Genl Hamilton said that he had prepared a written reply5 to Col: Burr’s letter of the 21st which he had left with Mr xxx6 and wished me to receive. I answered that the communication I had to make to him was predicated upon the idea that he would make no reply to Mr Burrs letter of the 21st Inst: and that I had so understood him in our conversation of the 22d. Genl H said that he believed before I left him, he had offered to give a written reply. I observed that when he answered verbally he had offered to put that refusal in writing but that if he had now prepared a written reply I would receive it with pleasure. I accordingly called on Mr xxx on the same day Monday June 25 between 1 & 2 O clock P M—and stated to him the result of my recent interview with Genl Hamilton, and the reference he had made to him.
I then received from Mr xxx the letter No 8.…7
This letter was unsealed, but I did not read it in his presence. After some conversation relative to what Genl Hamilton would say on the subject of the present controversy, during which Mr xxx read from a paper8 his ideas on the subject, he left me for the purpose of seeing and consulting Mr Hamilton taking the paper with him.
“Van Ness’s Narrative,” AD, New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York; ADf, New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York.
1. In his draft of his narrative Van Ness wrote: “At nine Oclock on monday the 24 Inst: I called on Genl Hamilton at his House in Cedar Street to deliver the letter No 4 [Burr to H, June 22, 1804], and make the remarks I was instructed to do. When I entered he said before I delivered any communication he wished to state, that he had prepared a written reply [H to Burr, June 22, 1804] to Mr Burr’s last letter, which was in the hands of Mr Pendleton who would deliver it to me. I answered that the communication I had to make to him was predicated upon the idea that he would make no reply to Mr Burr’s letter of the 21st Instant—And that I had so understood him in our conversation of the 22d Inst: Genl. Hamilton said that he believed he had offered to give a written reply which was however omitted, I said I recollected when he answered verbally that he could not answer Mr Burr’s letter that he offered to put that in writing—and I concluded by observing that if he wished to reply that I would receive it. In our conversation I repeated to him as nearly as I could recollect the observations contained in No. 5 [“Aaron Burr’s Instructions to William P. Van Ness,” June 22, 1804]. Genl Hamilton said that he disclaimed every idea of personal enmity—that to be sure he had been a uniform political opponent of Col. Burr, but in that opposition he had been governed by public principles. Between 1 & 2 O clock on the same day Monday 25 June I called on Mr Pendleton and stated that after my interview with Genl H. on friday, I had reported to Col B that Genl H. would make no reply to his letter of the 21. that I then received from Col B. a communication for Genl H, predicated upon that reply—that agreeable to appt I had seen Genl H. at 9 o clock, & that he supposed I had somewhat misunderstood him, and wished me to call on him Mr P. for a written reply which had been left with him. I then received from Mr Pendleton the letter No 8, but first premised that we were averse to continuing this correspondence any longer and that we should only return a verbal answer whether it was satisfactory or not. It was unsealed but I did not read it in his presence. After some little conversation concerning what Genl: Hamilton would say upon the subject of the present controversy, Mr Pendleton left me for the purpose of seeing and consulting Mr Hamilton.”
6. Nathaniel Pendleton.