Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Major General Nathanael Greene, [10 September 1779]

To Major General Nathanael Greene1

[West Point, September 10, 1779]

Dr Sir

I really do not think it would be an adviseable measure to detach a brigade, for though I should not apprehend any material danger here, yet I think without some substantial object, it would hardly be prudent to lessen our force. There are possible events that might at least embarrass us. But my principal objection arises from my considering a compliance rather as a bad precedent; if you yield to the importunity of one state, you must not only do the same to others in similar circumstances but you encourage that importunity and ultimately multiply your embarrassments. I hope the General’s letter in answer to the Governor pointing out some errors in his information will appease his apprehensions. The General appears much averse to the measure.2

I am convinced you can have no other motive than those you profess and I can hardly help chiding you for thinking it possible I could suppose what you hint.

I have the honor to be   Very truly and Affecty   Yr obedient ser

A Hamilton

I have mentioned General Howe’s matter3 to the General, by the way. His answer as I expected in the negative.

ALS, The Andre deCoppet Collection, Princeton University Library; copy, Columbia University Libraries.

1In PAH description begins Harold C. Syrett, ed., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (New York and London, 1961– ). description ends , II, this letter is printed as H to —.

2This and the preceding sentence concern a request which Governor Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut made to George Washington in a letter dated August 30, 1779. This letter has not been found, but it obviously concerned a request that troops be dispatched to Connecticut on the ground that the arrival at New York of British troops in a convoy under Admiral Marriot Arbuthnot’s command posed a threat to the state (Charles J. Hoadly, ed., The Public Records of the State of Connecticut, From May, 1778, to April, 1780, inclusive, With the Journal of the Council of Safety from May 18, 1778, to April 28, 1780, and an Appendix [Hartford, 1895], 392; Trumbull to Oliver Wolcott, Sr., August 31, 1779 [ALS, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford]; Trumbull to Jeremiah Powell, August 31, 1779 [ALS, Massachusetts Archives, Vol. 201, p. 266, Boston]). On September 3, 1779, Washington wrote to Trumbull acknowledging his letter and stating that he did not think that the enemy was about to attack Connecticut, and that on the basis of his information he did not feel justified in ordering additional troops to Connecticut at the present time (GW description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington (Washington, 1931–1944). description ends , XVI, 220–21).

3Robert Howe of North Carolina became a brigadier general in the Continental Army on March 1, 1776, and a major general on October 20, 1777. When the letter printed above was written, Howe was in command of the troops at Verplanck’s Point, New York.

On August 23, 1779, Howe asked Greene’s aid in securing another brigade (ALS, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California). On September 12, 1779, Howe again wrote to Greene: “I am much obliged to you for those Efforts you have made to obtain me the addition I wish’d for, and have to lament that the kindness you have shewn me upon this Occasion has not been attended with success” (ALS, William L. Clements Library of the University of Michigan).

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