Hamilton Papers Digitized on Library of Congress Website!!

In exciting news, the Library of Congress has digitized its extensive collection of Hamilton microfilm and made them publicly accessible.  This gives us all unprecedented access to original Hamilton documents that you would previously need to review and request on microfilm.

The Library of Congress description states:

The collection, consisting of approximately 12,000 items dating from 1708 to 1917, documents Hamilton’s impoverished Caribbean boyhood (scantily); events in the lives of his family and that of his wife, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton; his experience as a Revolutionary War officer and aide-de-camp to General George Washington; his terms as a New York delegate to the Continental Congress (1782-1783) and the Constitutional Convention (1787); and his careers as a New York state legislator, United States treasury secretary (1789-1795), political writer, and lawyer in private practice. Most of the papers date from 1777 until Hamilton’s death in 1804.

The Library of Congress finding aid has more information on all the information included in each of the reels.

The collection is organized into these eight categories:

  • General Correspondence, 1734-1804 (Reels 1-21)
    Hamilton’s correspondence begins with his boyhood employment with merchant Nicholas Cruger in St. Croix and continues through his service in the Revolutionary War, his participation as a New York delegate in the Constitutional Convention, and as treasury secretary. It ends with his last letters to his wife before his death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July 1804.
  • Speeches and Writings, 1778-1804 (Reels 21-23)
    Drafts, copies, and notes of reports; political essays, speeches, New York legislative acts, and more composed by Hamilton from the American Revolution until his death. Of note is an outline of the speech he delivered at the Constitutional Convention on June 18, 1787; his notes on debates and speeches at New York’s ratifying convention, June 1788; drafts of the four major economic reports he wrote as treasury secretary (on public credit, creation of a national bank, establishment of a mint, and development of manufacturing); drafts of the speeches he wrote for George Washington, including Washington’s 1796 farewell address; notes he took at New York’s constitutional convention of 1787; and drafts of some of his political essays. None of Hamilton’s Federalistessays are included.
  • Legal File, 1708-1804 (Reels 23-29)
    Papers documenting Hamilton’s career as a lawyer, which began in 1782. Most of these are ordered alphabetically by case. Some of the landmark cases included in his papers are Rutgers v. Waddington, People v. Croswell, Hylton v. United States, and cases forming the LeGuen v. Gouverneur and Kemble litigation.
  • Financial Papers, 1782-1804 (Reel 29)
    The financial papers, which form the smallest segment of the collection, consist of two volumes of accounts relating to Hamilton’s law practice, and a folder of miscellaneous receipts. Some of the receipts are for money Hamilton paid engineer William Pearce on behalf of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures to provide machinery for manufacturing cotton, 1791-1792.
  • Family Papers, 1737-1917 (Reels 29-31)
    Letters and other documents of members of the Hamilton, Schuyler, and related families, but not including Alexander Hamilton himself. The series contains letters from Angelica Church (Hamilton’s sister-in-law) and Philip Schuyler (Hamilton’s father-in-law) to Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton; from Philip Schuyler to his grandson, Philip Hamilton; and from Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton to her sister, Catherine Cochran, and to her son, Philip Hamilton. Through the marriage of Philip Hamilton to Rebecca McLane, several McLane family letters were incorporated into the papers. Most of the nonfamily correspondence of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton relates to the management of her properties and to arrangements for the publication of Hamilton’s papers. Scattered letters addressed to Alexander Hamilton (Alexander and Elizabeth’s grandson), James A. Hamilton, John Church Hamilton, and to members of the McLane family are also included.
  • Miscellany, 1711-1820 (Reels 31-34)
    A mixture of original and copied documents. Included are certificates, military papers, legislative papers, newspaper clippings, writings, school exercises attributed to Hamilton, Hamilton family papers including Hamilton’s will, printed material, notes on the collection, and more.
  • 1998 Addition, 1780-1820
    This series, consisting of material acquired by gift and purchase since the collection was microfilmed in 1981, was added to the Hamilton Papers in 1998. Originals include a letter from Nicholas Everton to Hamilton concerning legal matters and a Treasury Department circular. Photocopied material includes letters by Hamilton, miscellaneous images, and a page from a church register recording his marriage.
  • 2017 Addition, 1790-1804
    This series consists of fifty-five letters, originally owned by Hamilton descendants, purchased by the Library of Congress at Sotheby’s in January 2017. Fifty-one of these, 1790-1804, are from Philip Schuyler (1733-1804) to his son-in-law Alexander Hamilton and daughter Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton. The remainder consists of two additional family letters, a letter from Charles Pierre L’Enfant to Hamilton, July 14, 1801, concerning L’Enfant’s renovation of City Hall in New York into Federal Hall, and a fragment of a will in Hamilton’s hand, [July 1795].
  • Oversize
    Correspondence, reports, annotated drafts of the Constitution, writings, deeds, agreements, contracts, financial papers, certificates, and printed matter. These items were microfilmed in their original locations before their physical removal to this series. Included here are samples of lace made by women in Ipswich, Massachusetts. The lace was collected for Hamilton as an example of American manufacturing as he wrote his “Report on Manufactures,” 1791.

Hamilton on the Death of John Laurens

On August 27, 1782, John Laurens was killed while leading a party of American soldiers in a skirmish against the British.  Hamilton and Lauren had been extremely close, and Hamilton struggled with the news as he began his Congressional career.

Hamilton and Laurens became friends when both were aides-de-camp to Washington during the Revolution, and the two had an extremely close bond.

In April 1779, Hamilton wrote:

“Cold in my professions, warm in ⟨my⟩ friendships, I wish, my Dear Laurens, it m⟨ight⟩be in my power, by action rather than words, ⟨to⟩ convince you that I love you. I shall only tell you that ’till you bade us Adieu, I hardly knew the value you had taught my heart to set upon you. Indeed, my friend, it was not well done. You know the opinion I entertain of mankind, and how much it is my desire to preserve myself free from particular attachments, and to keep my happiness independent on the caprice of others. You sh⟨ould⟩ not have taken advantage of my sensibility to ste⟨al⟩ into my affections without my consent. But as you have done it and as we are generally indulgent to those we love, I shall not scruple to pardon the fraud you have committed, on condition that for my sake, if not for your own, you will always continue to merit the partiality, which you have so artfully instilled into ⟨me⟩.”

 

In 1779, Laurens left Washington’s service when he was elected to the South Carolina state legislature.  In that position, he attempted to win support for his plan for the enlistment of Black troops in the Continental Army.  On July 14, 1779, Laurens wrote:

Ternant will relate to you how many violent struggles I have had between duty and inclination—how much my heart was with you, while I appeared to be most actively employed here—but it appears to me that I shd be inexcusable in the light of a Citizen if I did not continue my utmost efforts for carrying the plan of black levies into execution, while there remains the smallest hope of success.

Image of John Laurens from Wikimedia

Just two weeks before Lauren died in South Carolina, Hamilton wrote him a letter on August 15, 1782 imploring him to join Congress and help him with the country’s next steps after the Revolution.

It requires all the virtue and all the abilities of the Country. Quit your sword my friend, put on the toga, come to Congress. We know each others sentiments, our views are the same: we have fought side by side to make America free, let us hand in hand struggle to make her happy.

Unfortunately, they never had that chance.  After Laurens’ death Hamilton wrote to his friend Nathaniel Greeene on October 12, 1782:

“I feel the deepest affliction at the news we have just received of the loss of our dear and ⟨inesti⟩mable friend Laurens. His career of virtue is at an end. How strangely are human affairs conducted, that so many excellent qualities could not ensure a more happy fate? The world will feel the loss of a man who has left few like him behind, and America of a citizen whose heart realized that patriotism of which others only talk. I feel the loss of a friend I truly and most tenderly loved, and one of a very small number.”

Hamil-Parenting: Rules for Philip Hamilton

After his oldest son, Philip, graduated from Columbia and began training as a law clerk in his father’s office, Hamilton laid out a detailed schedule for his study.  The schedule accounted for almost of all of Philip’s waking hours, from 6 am to 10 pm.  Under Hamilton’s rules, Philip would read Law for seven hours a day, and study other subjects for another three hours a day, with some breaks for eating. and some leisure time for “innocent recreations” on Sundays after church.  That is some intense scheduling!

Drawing of Philip Hamilton.
Image of Philip Hamilton from PBS

The full text of the rules, apparently from 1800, is reprinted below and available on Founders Online.

Rules for Mr Philip Hamilton from the first of April to the first of October he is to rise not later than Six Oclock—The rest of the year not later than Seven. If Earlier he will deserve commendation. Ten will be his hour of going to bed throughout the year.

From the time he is dressed in the morning till nine o clock (the time for breakfast Excepted) he is to read Law.

At nine he goes to the office & continues there till dinner time—he will be occupied partly in the writing and partly in reading law.

After Dinner he reads law at home till five O clock. From this hour till Seven he disposes of his time as he pleases. From Seven to ten he reads and Studies what ever he pleases.

From twelve on Saturday he is at Liberty to amuse himself.

On Sunday he will attend the morning Church. The rest of the day may be applied to innocent recreations.

He must not Depart from any of these rules without my permission.

Hamil-Swag: $2.6M Sotheby’s Auction of Hamilton Documents

On January 18, 2017, Sotheby’s held an auction titled: Alexander Hamilton: An Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts.  This auction included it

Sotheby’s description of the auction items stated:

The material in the auction includes highly personal documents, such as love letters exchanged between Hamilton and his wife Eliza, as well as the condolence letter, sealed with black wax, his father-in-law, Phillip Skyler, sent to his daughter after Hamilton was killed in the duel with Burr (estimate $15/20,000). However, his public career is also well represented with notes he wrote for one of Washington’s annual addresses to congress (estimate $15/25,000) as well as legal papers from his private practice, among many others documents. Perhaps the most poignant relic in the sale is a lock of Hamilton’s hair with a letter of presentation from his wife Eliza (estimate $15/25,000).

Image from Sotheby’s

The New York Times coverage of the auction noted that Hamilton artifacts are now valued more than Washington artifacts:

“Hamilton has exceeded the value of George Washington with this auction,” John Reznikoff, a dealer from Stamford, Conn., said after the hammer dropped on the last of 77 lots of letters and documents, which had been held by Hamilton descendants for more than 200 years. “If you compare letters with comparable content, Hamilton’s now cost more.”

Hamil-Burrn: Samuel Chase, the Publius Letters, and Hamilton’s Critique of Public Corruption

At age 21, a young and fiery Alexander Hamilton directed some serious vitriol towards Samuel Chase, a Maryland Congressman.  As a Congressman, Chase had known of Congress’ secret plan for securing flour to supply the French fleet. He then passed on this information to profit-minded associates, who hatched a plan to corner the supply of flour and raise its price.  In a series of three Publius letters in October and November 1778, Hamilton blasted Chase for seeking to profit from the Revolution, and using his position as a Member of Congress to damage the country and the Revolutionary movement.

The first Publius letter, published on October 16, 1778 accused Chase of violating his sacred responsibilities of office:

But when a man, appointed to be the guardian of the State, and the depositary of the happiness and morals of the people—forgetful of the solemn relation, in which he stands—descends to the dishonest artifices of a mercantile projector, and sacrifices his conscience and his trust to pecuniary motives; there is no strain of abhorrence, of which the human mind is capable, nor punishment, the vengeance of the people can inflict, which may not be applied to him, with justice. If it should have happened that a Member of C———ss has been this degenerate character, and has been known to turn the knowledge of secrets, to which his office gave him access, to the purposes of private profit, by employing emissaries to engross an article of immediate necessity to the public service; he ought to feel the utmost rigor of public resentment, and be detested as a traitor of the worst and most dangerous kind.

Hamilton’s deep abhorrence of corruption and the use of political power for personal gain is apparent in his criticism of Chase.  Particularly during a time of war, Hamilton felt that Chase’s use of information he had gained through his position of political trust for profit made him a “traitor of the worst and most dangerous kind.”

Hamilton’s second letter, published on October 26, 1778, criticized Chase as a man of mediocre (at best) talents, who had forced himself into public view as a result of the scandal and thus “acquired an indisputed title to be immortalised in infamy.”  Hamilton packed no punches in his letter, and his contempt of Chase shines unmistakably through:

The honor of being the hero of a public panegeric, is what you could hardly have aspired to, either from your talents, or from your good qualities. The partiality of your friends has never given you credit for more than mediocrity in the former; and experience has proved, that you are indebted for all your consequence, to the reverse of the latter. Had you not struck out a new line of prostitution for yourself, you might still have remained unnoticed, and contemptible—your name scarcely known beyond the little circle of your electors and clients, and recorded only in the journals of C–––––ss. But you have now forced yourself into view, in a light too singular and conspicuous to be over-looked, and have acquired an indisputed title to be immortalised in infamy.

In his third and final Publius letter on the subject of Chase’s corruption, dated November 16, 1778, Hamilton painted a picture of Chase as someone driven by greed alone, who had achieved success but who had gone too far to return to a position of public trust

The love of money and the love of power are the predominating ingredients of your mind—cunning the characteristic of your understanding. This, has hitherto carried you successfully through life, and has alone raised you to the exterior consideration, you enjoy. The natural consequence of success, is temerity. It has now proceeded one step too far, and precipitated you into measures, from the consequences of which, you will not easily extricate yourself; your avarice will be fatal to your ambition. I have too good an opinion of the sense and spirit, to say nothing of the virtue of your countrymen, to believe they will permit you any longer to abuse their confidence, or trample upon their honour.

Hamilton urged Chase to resign from office in light of the scandal, and to stop the facade of patriotism.

It is a mark of compassion, to which you are not intitled, to advise you by a timely and voluntary retreat, to avoid the ignominy of a formal dismission. Your career has held out as long as you could have hoped. It is time you should cease to personate the fictitious character you have assumed, and appear what you really are—lay aside the mask of patriotism, and assert your station among the honorable tribe of speculators and projectors. Cultivate a closer alliance with your D—s—y and your W—t, the accomplices and instruments of your guilt, and console yourself for the advantage you have lost, by indulging your genius, without restraint, in all the forms and varieties of fashionable peculation.

Hamilton’s accusations effectively ended Chase’s career in the Continental Congress, and led him to near bankruptcy.  Chase went home to Maryland, but returned to the national stage in the 1780s as a strong critic of the new Constitution.  Chase would eventually switch his political beliefs and became aligned with the Federalist Party.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase (image from Wikipedia)

Interestingly, after his fall from the Continental Congress in disgrace, Chase was appointed by President Washington to be a Supreme Court justice in 1796.  Chase later came into President Jefferson’s cross-hairs after openly criticizing the Democratic-Republicans for the repeal of the Judiciary Act of 1801.  Chase was served with eight articles of impeachment, and Vice President Aaron Burr presided over his impeachment trial.  Chase was ultimately not impeached by a large margin, and served on the Supreme Court until his death.  Chase’s victory in avoiding impeachment helped maintain judicial independence from the executive and legislative branches.   To read more about the trial, I recommend a 1967 article from the Maryland Law Review: “The Trials of Mr. Justice Samuel Chase.”  It’s a fascinating read, and is available for free online via Digital Commons.

Hamil-Swag: On Pins and Needles

Here are some decorative Hamilton-themed pins and buttons from around the internet.

On Etsy, thefoundretail offers an enamel Hamilton pin for $9.75.

Hamilton Enamel Pin, Alexander Hamilton, Soft Enamel Pin, Jewelry, Art, Gift (PIN53)
Image from Etsy

LoganArch offers a “Hipster Alexander Hamilton” soft enamel pin for $9.95.

Hipster Alexander Hamilton Pin
Image from LoganArch

InkandMettle features a wooden, antique-style handmade pin on stained wood for $10.

Alexander Hamilton Handmade Antique-Style Pin on Stained Wood // Stocking Stuffer
Image from Etsy

On Etsy, Yeswarea11 offers a set of handmade Constitution and Founding Father buttons featuring Hamilton, Jefferson, Washington, and some famous quotes from the founders.

FOUNDING FATHERS American Constitution 12 Pinback 1" Buttons Badges Pins
Image from Etsy

 

 

Hamil-Swag: More Office Supplies

As an update to my older post about Hamilton-themed office supplies, here are some additional office supplies available!

My office still boasts a Hamilton bobblehead and the mini-bust that I got a few years ago!  Some newer supplies and office decorations are now on the market, including:

  • Alexander Hamilton Notebook (from the Signature Notebook Series)- Leather-bound notebook with Hamilton’s quotes.  The product description states: “Alexander Hamilton is arguably one of the most inspiring—if not the most significant—of our Founding Fathers, and today, Hamilton’s legacy of brilliance still rewards us all. His defense and advocacy of the Constitution continue to shape our political discourse, and his profound impact on our then-fledging nation was accomplished largely through the power of his written word. Now you can put pen to paper in your very own Alexander Hamilton Signature Notebook, and let his words encourage and inspire you as you record your daily musings.”  It is available from Target from $9.87.
Image from Target
  • Blue Hamilton Mousepad- The Alex in Blue mousepad is a nonstick blue mousepad with a rubber backing.  Available from Cafe Press for $9.99.

    Alex In Blue Mousepad
    Image from Cafe Press 
  • Alexander Hamilton Statue Sculpture Figurine- This 13 inch figurine is made of cold cast resin with a bronze powder finish and is available from Amazon for $56.25.
Alexander Hamilton Statue Sculpture Figurine
Image from Amazon
  • Alexander Hamilton Glass Paperweight- made of tempered glass with a felted base.  The product description states that it is “an enduring inspiration and reminder of personal commitment and excellence. A visable symbol of Americas rich heritage.”  It is available from Amazon for $9.95.

 

Image from Amazon