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J[ames] A[lexander] H[amilton] to MVB, 18 January 1820

My dear Sir

Your letter of the 13th Inst recd is extremely gratifying to me as the renewed evidence of your regard for me and because it affords me an other opportunity to communicate with you in that candid honorable and friendly manner which has distinguished our intercourse almost from our earliest knowledge of each other

The explanation of your views and motives as to the Candidate (although I do not agree with you) may be useful in enabling me to explain the doubts and suppress the Suspicions which have begun to be entertained in regard to your individ personal views

The federalists I am free to admit are have behaved like men devoid of every spark of gratitude and honorable feeling They have permitted themselves to be sold like asses in a herd by their disgraced leaders to a hard unfeeling master and with him let them remain Both will ultimately receive their portion in their defeat by that Democracy of this State of which you speak and in which I have more confidence than in any other class of the community but I am not disappointed in the course they have pursued I well knew that all whom the <Swiss> could controul would be irrecoverably fixed against us do what you might but I did suppose there were more men who would have been independent of that controul. And when I have spoken of Tompkins as connected with our recent defeat I meant that the influence of the former federal leaders the base the degraded Judge & his two Aids would be more perfect powerfully exerted when so great an exciting cause existed as that is among federalists

I have received no ^new or^ particular pleasure and <illegible> <illegible> to <illegible> ^in learning that you would^ not barter Tompkins for a Council having pressed upon him the nomination and thus having prevented him from Settling his accounts as he might have done your party has drawn him into the toils and it would be base to leave him there if you can extricate him or abandon his interests for personal considerations. But when we take this position does it not afford a much stronger reason than any other for not making him the Candidate unless you are mostly certain to of Success, for I do not understand the obligation on your part arising from what has been passed to be alone to nominate him as the Candidate

But it is of a more interesting and extended nature. You are bound to Settle his accounts and that in as honorable and advantageous a manner as he might have done had he refused to acquesce in your demands upon his party devotion Should he be held up and fail can you then by any chance or change make him amends? It is possible that even then in the Course of time that his accounts might be adjusted as he now wishes them to be; but would not his defeat stamp his character indelably with the reproach his enemies now cast upon it?

Yours is a situation requiring no ordinary degree of fortitude and circumspection. ^The happiness & honor of^ Mr Tompkins's future life and hono is in your hands If nominated and defeated he is lost I do not mean to say that his conduct heretofore can be made right or wrong as the result may be but that as to the Public estimation of what it has been he is lost. If successful he is put to the severest test and the highest honor is the consequence

Suppose he Should not be nominated and he should put his refusal to be the candidate upon the ground that it would be indelicate under existing circumstances to press for a situation in which he is to determine his own rights in regard to the State on so delicate a subject and you nominate Yates or Thompson and they are defeated Will not Thompkins stand much higher than before Suppose Either of them should be successful would not his honor and his interest both be promotted Suppose Tompkins should be held up and be elected Will the doubting <illegible> <illegible> <illegible> be satisfied with any settlement of his accounts by a Comptroller who should be appointed by him but you have I am persuaded weighed well all these considerations if they are worthy of it.

There is an other view of this subject that suggests itself to my mind which I cannot for go mentioning to you although I have already prosed sufficiently on a Subject with which you are so mat familiar. As to the honorary obligation to nominate Co Tompkins. He was solicited and consented to receive the blow ^shaft^ which was aimed at him at a time when he and you and all thought that there would be a majority in both houses against Clinton which would push ^have settled^ all matters as connected with his monied affairs in and therefore that what ever might be said or done in the interim when he was presented as the Candidate he would be divested of the load which must hang upon every man who is of unwashed hands as to his accounts consequently the obligation only continued with the duration of the circumstances under contemplated when it was made and could not survive all changes that might happen. Suppose for instance you had been deceived as to the best true situation of his affairs (which you happily was not) you could not be bound in honor still to maintain his claims

When I urge this change as a reason against making him the Candidate I do not mean to intimate that it is also a reason for leaving ^him^ a prey to the vulu vultures who are hovering over him nor do I mean to urge it even as a reason to abandon him as the candidate if by doing so alone you can restore him to the advantages he possessed when he first put his character into your hands that is a trust as sound as your own honor.

May you not be deceived as to public feeling I have sometimes likened your situation to that of a Prince who never hears the truth and for this reason there is danger to those who tell it to you For Instance I am a member of the Republican ^party^ young and ambitious If successful I must be on terms with its leaders and those in power I do not think Tompkins the proper Candidate It is uncertain whether he will be held up If he is he may succeed and if he does and It should be known either by Mr Van B. or Mr. T. that I was agt the latter particularly if that opposition arises out of any thing connected with his ac character as his a/cs all my hopes of success are blasted I shall not get this office or that place and will be deprived of ^all^ the Consequince of their confidence and Consideration This is a course of reasoning not uncommon and perhaps if I had been governed by some thing like it perhaps permit me to say I should have escaped your gentle Reproof (as contained in your letter) of being one of the friends of Mr King who complain. There are many more of your party in this City than you imagine who think it bad policy to hold up Tompkins I have conversed with all whom I could meet with and I have not heard a dissentent voice Indeed I learn that letters have been written to him to decline by some of the Sachems here.

As to this Gentleman (who I fear will mar the best prospects a party ever had) I am personally bound to him; during the war he treated me with kindness and useful attention and if he should be Elected I have no doubt I should enjoy all the consequence ^advantages^ I want ^look to^ which is ^are^ to be permitted to pursue my profession without the necessity of overcoming the hos deadly hostility of a corrupt bench. And all the Consequence I desire; which is to be considered a member of ^that part of^ the Republican party which is in favor of ^favourable to^ the present administration of the General Government. If you can elect him beyond all reasonable doubt let him be nominated if there exists such a doubt having in view alone the great interest of the party to which I have refered do take some other man take the nail that will drive

I am pleased th ^that^ you express the feelings toward Judge Yates you do in this letter as I feared from what I have heard from a certain quarter that there was a hostility to ^on^ your part towards him and if I was permitted by you I would take care to write to the person from whom I wa Received the impression that it was unfounded.

It is hardly necessary for me to urge you to think well of the subject of this letter when you know that if Mr T is the candidate it will be attributed to your exercises you will feel with me who much your character as a public man and a politician is connected with success the result and I do not hesitate to say that it is so more than it ought to be as a discreat man unless you can command success.

Yours with undiminished Esteem & confidence


Source: DLC Library of Congress
Collection: MVB Papers (DLC)
Series: Series 3 (17 February 1815-2 December 1821)