Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to James Hamilton (1786–1857), 9 September 1821

To James Hamilton (1786–1857)

Sep. 9. 21.

Th: Jefferson returns his thanks to mr Hamilton for the copy of his oration on the 4th of July which he has been so kind as to send him, & especially for the kind sentiments towards himself expressed in the note accompanying it, he is happy to see in the oration of mr Hamilton a warm adhesion to the genuine principles of the revolution, and trusts they will [be]1 handed down in all their purity from father to son thro’ ages to come, he salutes mr H. with great respect & esteem.

PoC (DLC); on verso of reused address cover of Thomas Cooper to TJ, 31 Aug. 1820; dateline at foot of text; endorsed by TJ. Not recorded in SJL.

James Hamilton (1786–1857), planter, entrepreneur, and public official, was born at Rice Hope plantation near Charleston, South Carolina. He studied in Newport, Rhode Island, and Dedham, Massachusetts, before returning to Charleston to read law. Hamilton qualified as a lawyer in 1810 and began a practice, but he soon gave it up to become the secretary of Governor Henry Middleton. Following the outbreak of the War of 1812, he served in the United States Army, 1812–15, leaving the service as a major. Hamilton again practiced law between 1819 and 1823 and embarked on a political career, winning a special election to the South Carolina House of Representatives and serving from 1819 until 1822. In the latter year, when he was also intendant (analogous to mayor) of Charleston, Hamilton was a major figure in the prosecution of Denmark Vesey and others for an alleged slave conspiracy. He resigned from the South Carolina legislature following his election to fill a vacancy in the United States House of Representatives, serving from 1822 until 1829 and chairing the Committee on Military Affairs for his last three terms. Hamilton’s growing support for Nullification while in Congress helped propel him to the governorship of South Carolina in 1830. He convened the South Carolina state convention on this subject and served as president of the body when it passed the Ordinance of Nullification in 1832. Eventually, however, Hamilton backed a compromise that lost him support with both Unionists and Nullifiers. He ended his second and final term as governor in 1832 and served as a state senator, 1834–38. Hamilton engaged in numerous business activities that often left his finances perilously overextended. He operated a mercantile firm, several plantations, a brickyard, and a rice mill, and he was a founder of the Bank of Charleston and its president, 1835–38. Hamilton also became a prominent advocate for Texas, raising money and enlisting support for that fledgling nation and spending several years in Europe as its commissioner of loans. He took up residence on his Texas lands in 1855 but died when a ship he was on sank in the Gulf of Mexico (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, repr. 1968, 20 vols. in 10 description ends ; N. Louise Bailey and others, eds., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate, 1776–1985 [1986], 1:641–5; NcU: Hamilton Papers; Heitman, U.S. Army description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1903, repr. 1994, 2 vols. description ends , 1:493; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 2:250, 252 [13, 14 Apr. 1812]; Robert L. Meriwether, W. Edwin Hemphill, Clyde N. Wilson, and others, eds., The Papers of John C. Calhoun [1959–2003]; Jackson, Papers description begins Sam B. Smith, Harold D. Moser, Daniel Feller, and others, eds., The Papers of Andrew Jackson, 1980– , 10 vols. description ends ; New York Herald, 19 Nov. 1857; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 28 Nov. 1857).

TJ was extending his thanks for An Oration, delivered on the Fourth of July, 1821, before the Cincinnati and Revolution Societies. by James Hamilton, Jun. a member of the Cincinnati. and published at their joint request (Charleston, 1821), which opines that European settlers in America were characterized by “toleration of peculiar and various forms of religious worship, and by a fervid attachment to all those branches of the Constitution of the mother-country, which wore even the semblance of freedom” (p. 5); praises the colonists for progressing to a population of two million individuals, “well educated, pious, resolute and discreet, fearing God, loving liberty” (p. 7); celebrates the “gallant yeomanry” that fought in the Revolutionary War (p. 8); argues that, following the Revolution, American political institutions and liberties had evolved so far that they required only formal recognition; laments the deaths of Oliver Hazard Perry and Stephen Decatur; suggests that the War of 1812 was necessary to improve the relationship between the United States and Great Britain following the American Revolution; observes that partisan divides in the United States are lessening, thanks in part to the presidency of James Monroe; lauds the Society of the Cincinnati for “a patriotism too lofty for the influence of party” (p. 19); and calls upon his young listeners to emulate renowned South Carolinians of previous generations.

The note accompanying the oration is not recorded in SJL and has not been found.

1Omitted word editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • An Oration, delivered on the Fourth of July, 1821, before the Cincinnati and Revolution Societies (J. Hamilton) search
  • Fourth of July; orations search
  • Hamilton, James (1786–1857); An Oration, delivered on the Fourth of July, 1821, before the Cincinnati and Revolution Societies search
  • Hamilton, James (1786–1857); identified search
  • Hamilton, James (1786–1857); letter from accounted for search
  • Hamilton, James (1786–1857); letter to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search