George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, 19 December 1780

From Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton

Albany Decr 19th 80

Dr Sir

Mr Renselaar who has the direction of the Armory here tells Me that the Board of War, write him they are unable to support it any longer, on the present establishment for want of supplies—and propose to him to endeavour to have it carried on by contract.1 This he declares is impossible—The armory must either continue on the present footing or cease. As far as I understand the matter, there is no objection to the terms in themselves—but a want of means to comply with them—If there is a want of means the thing must be relinquished, but as it does not strike me that it can be more difficult to maintain an armory here than elsewhere—and as I apprehend in the present state of our Arsenals, we shall stand in need of all the repairing we can, I take the liberty, at Mr Ranselaars request to mention the matter to you.

I have seen the Armory myself—It appears to be in excellent order and under a very ingenious industrious man2—I am told it has been conducted hitherto with great activity. Its situation is in my opinion advantageous—As there is a considerable body of troops always at West Point and the army generally in its vicinity the River is very convenient for transportation to and from the Armory; and, I should think, would be conducive to œconomy—This consideration strikes me as of importance—General Knox however will be the best judge of the usefulness of this armory.

Mr Renselaar also mentions a considerable number of hides in the hands of persons here who had had orders from the Clothier General not to dispose of them but by his orders—He says he can no longer but with great difficulty procure leather for the public works on credit—and has requested me to mention this also to Your Excellency.3

Mrs Hamilton presents4 her respectful compliments to Mrs Washington and yourself5—After the holidays we shall be at Head Quarters.

I believe I imparted to you General Schuylers wish that you could make it convenient to pay a visit with Mrs Washington this winter—He and Mrs Schuyler have several times repeated their inquiries and wishes—I have told them I was afraid your business would not permit you—If it should, I shall be happy you will enable me to let them know about what period will suit—When the slaying arrives, it will be an affair of two days up and two days down. With the most respectful Attachment I have the honor to be Yr Excellys Obedt ser.

A. Hamilton

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, DLC: Hamilton Papers. For the conveyance of this letter, see GW’s reply to Hamilton on 29 Dec., and n.1 to that document.

2Hamilton refers to William Shepherd (see William Malcom to GW, 18 Nov., and n.3 to that document).

3GW wrote Van Rensselaer from headquarters at New Windsor on 27 Dec.: “I am informed by Colo. Hamilton that the Board of War have it in contemplation to break up the Armoury at Albany, or put it upon some other foundation. This was the first I had heard of it. I will make enquiry into the matter, and, if possible, have a Work of so much utility continued at so convenient a place as Albany—Colo. Hamilton also mentioned that you were in want of leather for the Works, but could not obtain it without a special order. I for that reason inclose one on the Deputy Commy of Hydes to supply you with the quantity necessary.

“I am pleased to find by the letter which accompanied your last Return, that you had got the Armourers to work again” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; the draft was addressed to Van Rensselaer at Albany; see also GW’s first letter to James Clinton, 19 Dec., and n.2 to that document; Van Rensselaer to GW, 1 Dec., found at Van Rensselaer to GW, 1 Nov., source note; and Van Rensselaer to GW, 23 Dec.).

4Hamilton first wrote and struck out “prays” before writing this word on his ALS.

5Hamilton had married Elizabeth Schuyler at the home of her parents in Albany on 14 Dec. (see Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 2:521, and Chernow, Hamilton description begins Ron Chernow. Alexander Hamilton. New York, 2004. description ends , 145–50).

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (1757–1854), the second-eldest daughter of GW’s friend Philip Schuyler, was born and raised in Albany. She met Hamilton while visiting a relative in Morristown, N.J., during the army’s encampment at that place the previous winter. She proved a faithful and devoted wife to her often-mercurial husband and became the chief defender of his reputation during her long widowhood, which began in 1804.

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