"I GIVE YOU THIS HINT IN CONFIDENCE TO ENABLE YOU THE BETTER TO FORM AN ESTIMATE OF THE TRUE NATURE OF THE OFFICE": ALEXANDER HAMILTON SIGNED AUTOGRAPH LETTER TO HIS FRIEND AND CONFIDANT EDWARD CARRINGTON, REFERRED TO BUT UNPUBLISHED AND UNLOCATED FOR OVER TWO HUNDRED YEARS
HAMILTON, Alexander. Autograph letter signed. Philadelphia: March 20, 1791. One leaf of laid paper (14 by 9-3/4 inches), folded once for four pages, handwritten on first two pages, final leaf window-mounted in heavier stock. WITH: Engraved full-length portrait, similarly window-mounted in heavier stock. $58,000.
Excellent, unpublished Alexander Hamilton autograph letter signed, with extraordinary content, written to his friend, confidant, and long-time correspondent Edward Carrington regarding his recent appointment to Supervisor of the Revenue for the District of Virginia, newly discovered after 200 years, having been bound into a book sometime in the 1870s.
The recipient of this letter, Edward Carrington, is an important but little-known figure in the American Revolution. He served with Alexander Hamilton on Washington's staff and remained a life-long friend and correspondent with both Washington and Hamilton. He attended the Continental Congress as the delegate from Virginia and served as Marshal of the District of Washington from 1789 to 1791. In 1791, as a result of Hamilton's recommendations for establishing the public credit through, in part, the establishment of a uniform national tax on spirits produced by domestic distillers, Washington appointed inspectors of the revenue throughout the states. On March 15, 1791, Washington issued an executive order establishing the appointments and on the same day sent a letter to his Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, directing him to notify the appointees. Hamilton sent two letters to Edward Carrington, an appointee, discussing the appointment: one an official letter outlining the responsibilities of the position, and a private letter giving him the "low-down" on the job. For years we knew of the content of the two letters only through Carrington's response on April 4, 1791, in which he wrote, "The private letter which you were so good as to accompany your Official communication with, calls for and has my warmest acknowledgements…had I upon any consideration been hesitating, your private letter would have turned the scale…" The official letter has since been discovered and is in the Gilder Lehrman Collection, and now this, the private version, has been found after being bound in a book sometime in the 1870s.
Hamilton's letter reads in full: "Dear sir, This is accompanied by an official letter. It serves to assure you of the pleasure which your appointment to the Office of Supervisor gave me and to express my earnest desire that it may be as agreeable to you as it has been to me. The compensation is not at present as liberal as could have been wished but it is as great as the limits allowed by the Legislation would permit—I can however truly say that I consider it as one of the most important offices of a local aspect which has been or is likely to be in the disposition of the Government; as one, particularly which will considerably increase in importance. It is, in my contemplation, to embrace many things under the general direction of the Supervisor which form no part of the present plan—this will retrospect as well as look forward to whatever additional calls for revenue may arise out of the future exigencies of the Union. I give you this hint in confidence to enable you the better to form an estimate of the true nature of the Office. Yours with sincere esteem & regard, [signed] A Hamilton. Philadelphia March 20, 1791—Ed. Carrington Esqr." [The underlining is Hamilton's.]
While Hamilton does not directly reference the important Compromise of 1790, which granted Hamilton his desire for the national government to take over and pay the state debts from the Revolution, while Jefferson and Madison obtained the location of the national capital, he clearly indicates in the letter that substantial changes were afoot, and that the position of revenue supervisor in Virginia would become much more influential and important now that the capitol would be established there and now that revenue collection would become more centralized and Federalized.
Edward Carrington's relationship to Hamilton was further highlighted and sensationalized when Hamilton sent him a letter a little over a year later, in May of 1792, that has become known simply as "The Carrington Letter," which Chernow has said "virtually declared war against Jefferson and Madison." It has been called "one of the most revealing communications that Hamilton ever penned." In it, Hamilton lays out in great detail and accuracy the current political situation, and writes that "originally Madison and himself had been in entire agreement on funding and assumption, and that he had been slow to believe that Madison had changed his views and become personally unfriendly… [concluding that] Madison in cooperation with Jefferson 'is at the head of a faction decidedly hostile to me and my administration.' The Carrington letter was undoubtedly meant to call Jefferson and Madison to public account in their own state for their behavior. It was written to be shown about… and was a more direct challenge to them than a newspaper article would have been" (Henry Ford Jones}. That Hamilton chose to send the letter to Carrington with the confidence that his friend would circulate and publicize it, is further evidence of the close alliance that the two had. Faint pencil markings to first page in upper left corner. This item was bound into an extra-illustrated copy of the "History of the City of New York" circa 1872, in the possession of Emery E. Childs, and while the book—expanded to 21 volumes—has passed through several hands, this particular autograph letter has not been on the market since it was bound in, a happy circumstance that has also maintained this rare letter in excellent condition.
Two faint stains, chiefly marginal. Hamilton's signature bold and fine, with his large flourish. A scarce and highly significant piece of history, unrestored, very well-preserved.