Lot 1040
  • 1040

Philip Schuyler

30,000 - 50,000 USD
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  • A group of 17 letters, 1793–1803, addressed to his son-in-law, Alexander Hamilton
  • Paper, ink
A group of 17 autograph letters signed ("Ph Schuyler"), 30 pages (various sizes), most with integral address leaves, Albany, to Alexander Hamilton; condition varies, fold separations, with tears usually occurring to the address leaf and in some instances with the blank margins of the address leaf cut away and one with the address excised.


The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Syrett, 25:374 (citing two copies of the 27 March 1801 letter, with the original not surfacing until now)

Catalogue Note

A fine group of letters from Schuyler to Hamilton, all but one unknown to and unpublished in the Papers of Alexander Hamilton.

"Whether you shall remain in or resign the Superintendence of the Treasury Department, it seems to me equally proper that you should establish the principle in which all future loans should be made ..."

A good many of the letters address such issues as the economy, public debt, state politics, land sales, and pestilence. Schuyler's letter of 5 January 1793 is of singular importance insofar as he provides a detailed analysis of Samuel Gale's essays On the Nature & Principles of Public Credit, Containing Observations on a System of Redemption [of public debt], (London, 1783–1787).  In the letter's postscript, Schuyler counsels his son-in-law: "Whether you shall remain in or resign the Superintendence of the Treasury Department, it seems to me equally proper that you should establish the principle in which all future loans should be made, such as that the means of redemption should invariably be annexed to the loans from an accumulation of debt will always be prevented without additional burthens on the people and setting out in this system advantages will accrue which no nation having a public debt has ever had yet experienced. The credit will be yours and posterity will bless your memory for having introduced a system so replete with salutary consequences."

In the matter of personal debt, Schuyler informs Hamilton (5 November 1797) that he is willing to pay off the gambling debts of his 28-year-old son, Rensselaer, if he promises to abstain from gaming. After that, Schuyler plans to "place him on a very valuable farm which he may have decently, if he will, and if he will not his becoming now insolvent that he will not be able to borrow any money with facility." 

Two letters dated 17 and 19 April 1801 are devoted to the New York State gubernatorial race of 1801 in which his son-in-law Stephen van Rensselaer was running for Governor on the Federal ticket. He voices some concern about the race, but remains optimistic that the Federalists will win the majority vote. "Several letters from different persons in Dutchess, Columbia, and the Western and northern counties offered such information that if it be founded ... of no doubt that the foederal candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor will have such a majority that unless Ulster, Orange, Rockland and the counties to the southern district  give their opponents a majority of 1500 votes—we shall succeed. Ulster will bear heavy on us, as we are informed that the Chancellor [Robert Livingston, a Democratic-Republican] is exerting all his influence in that as well as in other counties ..." In his letter of 19 April, Schuyler congratulates Hamilton for the speech he delivered at a Federalist meeting that was called to nominate thirteen candidates from New York City for the state Assembly. The New York Commercial Advertiser of 11 April had reported: "General Hamilton addressed the meeting in one of those eloquent and impressive speeches which distinguish this superior man. He took a general review of the state of the country since the revolution—examined the conduct of the two parties which have existed in it—shewed that it was to the Federal party exclusively that we owe the unexampled prosperity which we have enjoyed ..." (Papers, ed. Syrett, 25:375). Schuyler further comments: "Letters from New York announce that your address to the meeting of citizens convened on the 10th instant affords great hopes that considerable conversion will be produced on those who are not altogether abandoned and that the foederalists will exert themselves to the utmost."

The election apparently was intense, fueled by ardent political passions, sparking incidents similar to those witnessed in our recent presidential race. In the 15 April letter, Schuyler recounts how Judge Lewis, a Democratic-Republican, and a Mr. DeHart, a Federalist, nearly came to blows in a duel, which Hamilton apparently highlighted by drawing a vertical line on the left margin of the text: "Judge Lewis ... called on Mr. DeHart at Rhynbeck, and asked the latter if he had reported that he Lewis was in favor of Mr. Rensselaer. DeHart replied that he had. Lewis asked for his author. DeHart replied that Judge Lewis was his author. Lewis then told DeHart he was a damned Liar. DeHart in reply said none but a scoundrel would make ... such an expression to a decent person and that if Lewis was not on his horse he would want it in another manner. Lewis dismounted and a scuffle ensued, they were parted. Lewis said he would give any other satisfaction which DeHart might require—the latter whispered to him that he had a room and all the requisite implements for an immediate decision. Then Lewis said such a combat would be improper for a Judge ... but that if DeHart would go to Jersey he would fight him. DeHart replied that his business would not then permit his absences but that he should in the course of the summer be frequently at NYork, and he would then call on him, and go to Jersey. Lewis made no reply and went off." George Clinton, of the Democratic-Republican party, won the election with 54.3% of the popular vote against Van Rensselaer's 45.7%. The Federalists also lost the entire assembly to the Democratic-Republicans.

Schuyler also shows deep concern for the health and welfare of his daughter's illustrious husband. In a letter dated 27 March 1801, Schuyler expresses his relief that "[Y]ou have escaped the danger with which you was threatened by the fire in the vessel in which you were. Had you perished, my calamity would have been compleat." Hamilton had written Schuyler on 22 March, explaining that upon return from Albany where he was attending the New York State Court of Errors, the ship on which he was returning had caught fire while anchored at Haverstraw Bay, but that the fire was quickly extinguished (Papers, ed. Syrett, 25:371). Similarly, he writes on 15 August 1803, during an outbreak of yellow fever in New York City: "I had the pleasure of receiving your letter which from the postmark appeas to be of the 11th instant. I wish it had been written from the Grange, but I fear it was in the City. —healthy, and pure as is the atmosphere which surrounds you at the Grange. It makes you more susceptible of infection when you approach the vortex of the pestilential effluvia, and ... I cannot describe how much I apprehend from your exposing yourself to the pestilence. I know you have to hope ... but hope ought not to beget too great a confidence." Periodic outbreaks of yellow fever plagued New York City between 1795 and 1803, costing thousands of lives, and Hamilton's offices on Robinson Street were dangerously close to the most infected area in the city.