Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Theodore Sedgwick, 10 July 1804

To Theodore Sedgwick

New York July 10. 1804

My Dear Sir

I have received two letters from you since we last saw each other—that of the latest date being the 24 of May.1 I have had in hand for some time a long letter to you, explaining my view of the course and tendency of our Politics, and my intentions as to my own future conduct. But my plan embraced so large a range that owing to much avocation, some indifferent health, and a growing distaste for Politics, the letter is still considerably short of being finished. I write this now to satisfy you, that want of regard for you has not been the cause of my silence.

I will here express but one sentiment, which is, that Dismembrement of our Empire will be a clear sacrifice of great positive advantages, without any counterballancing good; administering no relief to our real Disease; which is Democracy, the poison of which by a subdivision will only be the more concentered in each part, and consequently the more virulent.2

King is on his way for Boston3 where you may chance to see him, and hear from himself his sentiments.4

God bless you


T Sedgwick Esqr

ALS, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.

1Sedgwick’s two letters to H have not been found.

2This is a reference to a project of some Federalist leaders in New England to secede from the United States and form a northern confederacy. For the correspondence concerning this project, see Henry Adams, ed., Documents Relating to New-England Federalism. 1800–1815 (Boston, 1905), 46–63, 107–330, 338–65. On December 20, 1828, William Plumer wrote to John Quincy Adams that “arrangements had been made to have, the next autumn [1804], in Boston, a select meeting of the leading Federalists in New England, to consider and recommend the measures necessary to form a system of government for the Northern States; and that Alexander Hamilton of New York had consented to attend that meeting” (Adams, New-England Federalism, 145). Plumer of New Hampshire and Adams were both members of the United States Senate in 1803 and 1804.

In 1829 John Quincy Adams prepared a “Reply to the Appeal of the Massachusetts Federalists,” in which he wrote: “The session of Congress closed on the 4th of March, 1804, and I shortly afterwards returned to spend the summer at my father’s residence at Quincy. On my way thither, I was detained several days at New York, during which I frequently visited Mr. Rufus King, who had then recently returned from his first mission to England. On the 8th day of April, I called and passed great part of the evening with him in his library. I found there, sitting with him, Mr. Timothy Pickering, who, shortly after I went in, took leave and withdrew. As he left the house, Mr. King said to me, ‘Colonel Pickering has been talking to me about a project they have for a separation of the States and a Northern confederacy; and he has also been this day talking of it with General Hamilton.… I disapprove entirely of the project; and so, I am happy to tell you, does General Hamilton’” (Adams, New-England Federalism, 147–48).

John Church Hamilton described a party at the Grange on July 7 as follows: “After dinner, when they were alone, Hamilton turned to [John] Trumbull, and, looking at him with deep meaning, said: ‘You are going to Boston. You will see the principal men there. Tell them from Me, at My request, for God’s sake, to cease these conversations and threatenings about a separation of the Union. It must hang together as long as it can be made to’” (Hamilton, History description begins John C. Hamilton, Life of Alexander Hamilton, a History of the Republic of the United States of America (Boston, 1879). description ends , VII, 822–23).

3Rufus King, who opposed H’s decision to fight the duel with Aaron Burr, was on his way to Boston to visit his family and friends. For King’s decision to leave New York before the duel, see King, The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King description begins Charles R. King, ed., The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King (New York, 1894–1900). description ends , IV, 389–402.

4The letter to Sedgwick printed above is the last extant letter H wrote before the duel with Burr on July 11, 1804.

John Church Hamilton described his father’s final days as follows: “… “Sunday [July 8], before the heat of the day, he walked with his wife over all the pleasant scenes of his retreat. On his return to the house, his family being assembled, he read the morning service of the Episcopal church. The intervening hours till evening were spent in kind companionship; and at the close of the day, gathering around him his children under a near tree, he laid with them upon the grass until the stars shone down from the heavens.

“Monday he returned to the city. After disposing of the more urgent of his clients, he drew up a statement of his affairs and prepared his will.” (Hamilton, History description begins John C. Hamilton, Life of Alexander Hamilton, a History of the Republic of the United States of America (Boston, 1879). description ends , VII, 823.)

On December 13, 1843, Judah Hammond, who was a clerk in H’s law office in 1804, wrote to John Church Hamilton: “The last time General Hamilton was in the office was in the early part of July 1804, in the afternoon. I was the only person remaining in the office with him. The last thing he did there, in his professional business he did at my desk and by my side. Even the place seems sacred to my memory. The office was at Number twelve in Garden Street, opposite the Church Grounds. The building has been since removed. It was near sunset, the evening bright and serene. The setting sun approached the margin of the horizon, shedding his last rays on the beautiful objects illustrated by his departing splendours. At this closing of the day, when we love to linger in its pleasures, General Hamilton came to my desk, in the tranquil manner usual with him, and gave me a business paper with his instructions, concerning it. I saw no change in his appearance. These were his last moments in his place of business” (ALS, Columbia University Libraries).

According to John Church Hamilton, H “… after waiting upon his faithful friend, Oliver Wolcott, at the close of an entertainment given by him,… made his last visit. It was to Colonel [Robert] Troup, the companion of his early years. ‘The whole tenor of his deportment manifested such composure and cheerfulness of mind, as to leave me,’ Troup relates, ‘without any suspicion of the rencontre that was depending; his manner having an air of peculiar earnestness and solicitude’” (Hamilton, History description begins John C. Hamilton, Life of Alexander Hamilton, a History of the Republic of the United States of America (Boston, 1879). description ends , VII, 824–25).

On July 11 Wolcott wrote to his wife: “Hamilton spent the afternoon & evening of Monday with our friends at my House.… He was uncommonly cheerful and gay” (Hamilton, Intimate Life description begins Allan McLane Hamilton, The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1910). description ends , 407).

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