To James Madison1
[New York, April 18, 1784. “I take the liberty to introduce him to you, as to one who will be disposed, so far as your situation will permit and the circumstances of the State may render practicable, to patronise any just or equitable claims which he may have upon the State. What those claims are he will himself explain to you, I have assured him that he will find in you a friend to justice and an able advocate for whatever ought and is possible to be done for him.…” Letter not found.]
Frederick B. McGuire Catalogue of “President Madison’s Correspondence” (Philadelphia, February 26, 1917), Item 52.
1. This letter of introduction was written on behalf of Joseph François Perrault, a French fur trader and merchant, who in 1784 petitioned Virginia for reimbursement for the supplies he had furnished that state’s troops in the Illinois country in 1778–1779.
The extract printed above, the text of which is taken from the dealer’s catalogue, is also printed and fully annotated in Robert A. Rutland and William M. E. Rachal, eds., The Papers of James Madison (Chicago, 1973), VIII, 19.
This extract poses two distinct problems. In the first place, the year in which it was written does not appear on the extract, and it has been tentatively assigned 1784 in the Madison Papers on the grounds that the Virginia House of Delegates and Governor Benjamin Harrison, Sr. in Council considered and ultimately rejected a petition by Perrault in May and June, 1784. On the other hand, no evidence has been found that Perrault passed through New York and proceeded to Virginia in 1784 or in any other year. No mention of such a trip appears in his autobiography or in any other available source (P. Bender, Old and New Canada 1753–1844. Historic Scenes and Social Pictures, or the Life of Joseph-François Perrault [Montreal, 1882]; Louise Kellogg, ed., Publications of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Collections, Vol. XXIV, Frontier Retreat on the Upper Ohio 1779–1781 [Madison, 1917], 86–87).
In the second place, because no manuscript of this document has been found, it is possible that this letter was not written by H. In H’s extant correspondence no other reference to Perrault can be found. In addition, among H’s contemporaries there were other Alexander Hamiltons. For example, in 1790 an Alexander I. Hamilton lived in New York City, and there were three Alexander Hamiltons in Maryland (Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790 New York [Washington: Government Printing Office, 1908], 122; Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790 Maryland [Washington: Government Printing Office, 1907], 50, 94).