Hamilton, Adams, and the “British Faction”

It’s Hamiltime is back!  I’ve been in trial mode for the past several months, but I’m back and will be updating this blog on a regular basis.

During the presidency of John Adams, Hamilton found himself at odds with the President, and the subject of swirling rumors that he was part of a “British faction.”

Hamilton wrote to his friend Oliver Wolcott, Jr. on July 1, 1800:

I have serious thoughts of writing to the President to tell him That I have heared of his having repeatedly mentioned the existence of a British Faction in this Country & alluded to me as one of that faction—requesting that he will inform me of the truth of this information & if true what have been the grounds of the suggestion.

On August 1, 1800 Hamilton sent a heated letter to Adams confronting him about the rumors:

“It has been repeatedly mentioned to me that you have, on different occasions, asserted the existence of a British Faction in this Country, embracing a number of leading or influential characters of the Federal Party (as usually denominated) and that you have sometimes named me, at other times plainly alluded to me, as one of this description of persons: And I have likewise been assured that of late some of your warm adherents, for electioneering purposes, have employed a corresponding language.

I must, Sir, take it for granted, that you cannot have made such assertions or insinuations without being willing to avow them, and to assign the reasons to a party who may conceive himself injured by them. I therefore trust that you will not deem it improper that I apply directly to yourself, to ascertain from you, in reference to your own declarations, whether the information, I have received, has been correct or not, and if correct what are the grounds upon which you have founded the suggestion.”

Image from Biography.com 

On October 1, 1800, Hamilton again wrote to Adams:

“The time which has elapsed since my letter of the first of August was delivered to you precludes the further expectation of an answer.

From this silence, I will draw no inference; nor will I presume to judge of the fitness of silence on such an occasion, on the part of The Chief Magistrate of a Republic, towards a citizen, who without a stain has discharged so many important public trusts.

But this much I will affirm, that by whomsoever a charge of the kind mentioned in my former letter may, at any time, have been made or insinuated against me, it is a base wicked and cruel calumny; destitute even of a plausible pretext to excuse the folly or mask the depravity which must have dictated it.”

Hamilton’s fierce defense of his honor and reputation shine through in these letters to Adams.  Just three weeks after sending this second letter to Adams, Hamilton wrote his influential Letter Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, which greatly diminished Adams’ chances of re-election.

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