Lot 1039
  • 1039

Alexander Hamilton

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262,500 USD
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  • A prevously unrecorded autograph draft of Pacificus Essay No. VI
  • Paper, ink
4 pages (10 x 7 3/4 in.; 255 x 197 mm) on a bifolium, [Philadelphia, early July 1793], with numerous revisions, emendations, and deletions; short tear at foot of both leaves, early repair to central fold.


The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Syrett, 15:100–106 (text from the first printing in the Philadelphia Gazette of the United States for 17 July and an incomplete autograph draft in the Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress)

Catalogue Note

"But the cause of France is the cause of liberty. Tis our own cause; and it is our first duty to countenance and promote it—whatever foundation there may be for the suggestion, it is intirely foreign to the question of gratitude.”

In April 1793, President Washington issued a Proclamation of Neutrality in the nascent war between Revolutionary France and other European powers: “Whereas it appears that a state of war exists between Austria, Prussia, Sardinia, Great Britain, and the United Netherlands, of the one part, and France on the other; and the duty and interest of the United States require, that they should with sincerity and good faith adopt and pursue a conduct friendly and impartial toward the belligerent Powers; I have therefore thought fit by these presents to declare the disposition of the United States to observe the conduct aforesaid towards those Powers respectfully; and to exhort and warn the citizens of the United States carefully to avoid all acts and proceedings whatsoever, which may in any manner tend to contravene such disposition.”

The Proclamation was issued only after a contentious debate among the cabinet; while all agreed the United States should remain neutral, the Democratic-Republicans saw so necessity for an official proclamation, which they felt could forestall some benefit from one side or the other of the belligerents “bidding for” American neutrality. Thomas Jefferson’s opposition to the proclamation was so great that he eventually resigned as Secretary of State.

Under the pen name Pacificus, Alexander Hamilton took up a defense of the neutrality proclamation; James Madison (ironically one of Hamilton’s co-authors of The Federalist Papers), writing as Helvidius, responded with the opposing viewpoint. The debate expanded into the areas of the limits of executive authority, the separation of powers in foreign relations, and the correct interpretation of the Constitution.

In Pacificus VI, Hamilton argues that while Louis XVI and France had certainly aided the cause of American independence, the gratitude of the younger country did not compel it to accept an alliance with France contrary to her own interests—or to have to choose sides between the French revolutionaries and their former rulers. The present draft foretells very closely the essay as published. Despite the many crossings-outs over the first four paragraphs of the draft, they align very closely with the first eleven paragraphs of the published text:

"But Louis the XVI was a despot and Tyrant. By his [deletion] and crimes he forfeited his crown and his life, and with that his title to our esteem & [deletion] sympathy.—Besides—he is now no more … [ellipses in original] Whatever competition may have before existed ceased with his death. The claim to our gratitude has by this devolved exclusively upon the Nation.

"That Louis was a Tyrant is contradicted too emphatically by the whole tenor of his life to be credited without better evidence than has yet been produced. That he was guilty of the crimes ["charged" ruled through] which were the pretext of his Death remains still to be proved to an impartial world. To the presumption of his guilt which is descending from the fact of his condemnation and execution may be opposed the sanguinary characters. Against the presumption of his guilt, this strong ["confederation" ruled through] argument, independent of other topics which might be urged, presents itself. … [ellipses in original] If the convention had possessed clear proofs of the guilt of Louis, they would have promulgated them to the world in an authentic and unquestionable shape: Respect for the opinion of mankind, regard for their own character, the interest of their cause made this an indispensable duty, and would have produced a correspondent effect, if the case had admitted of it. The omission is a satisfactory indication that the means of doing it were not possessed; and that the melancholy catastrophe of Louis the XVI. was the result rather of a supposed political expediency than of real criminality.

"In a case so circumstanced, does it consist even with our justice or humanity, to participate in the angry and vindictive passions which are endeavored to be excited against him? [heavy deletions and rewriting] and to extend to the son the consequences of Father’s misfortunes? Shall we not be more certain of sure of violating no obligation of that sort, of not implicating the delicacy of our national character, by taking no part in the contest, than by throwing our weight into either scale?

"But the cause of France is the cause of liberty. Tis our own cause; and it is our first duty to countenance and promote it—whatever foundation there may be for the suggestion, it is intirely foreign to the question of gratitude. Gratitude has reference only to kind offices received. The obligation to aid the cause of liberty, has reference to the abstract … merits of that cause—It is possible that the benefactor may be on one side—the defenders and supporters of liberty on the other. Gratitude may point that way … [ellipses in original] the love of liberty this … [ellipses in original] There is a necessary distinction to be made."

The next three paragraphs of the present draft provide virtually word-for-word the concluding three paragraphs of the final version. There is even some evidence that this manuscript may have been intended as printer’s copy because Hamilton has not only underscored certain words to indicate italics but double-underscored the term Grecian horse to indicate small capitals, which is how the expression appeared in print:

“All this was and is seen, and the body of the people of America are too discerning to be long in the dark about it. Too wise to have been misled by foreign or domestic machinations, they adopted a constitution which was necessary to their safety and to their happiness. … [ellipses in original] Too wise still to be ensnared by the same machinations, they will support the government they have established, and will take care of their own peace, in spite of the insidious efforts which are making to detach them from the one, and to disturb the other.

“The information which the address of the Convention [deletion] contains, ought to serve as an instructive lesson to the people of this country. It ought to teach us not to over-rate foreign friendships, to be upon our guard against foreign attachments. The former will generally be found hollow and delusive; the latter will have a natural tendency to lead us [deletion] aside from our own true interest, and to make us the dupes of foreign influence. They introduce a principle of action, which in its effects, if the expression may be allowed, is anti-national.” The next sentence is written in the margin of the page, but its place within the essay is indicated by asterisks: “Foreign influence is truly the Grecian horse to a republic. We cannot be too careful to exclude its entrance. Nor ought we to imagine, that it can only make its approaches in the gross form of direct bribery. [deletion] It is then most dangerous, when it comes under the patronage of our passions, under the auspices of national prejudice and partiality.

“I trust the morals of this country are yet too good to leave much to apprehend on the score of bribery. Caresses, condescentions, flattery, in unison with our prepossessions, are infinitely more to be feared; and as far as there is opportunity for corruption, it is to be remembered, that one foreign power can employ this resource as well as another, and that the effect must be much greater, when it is combined with the other means of influence, than where it stands alone.”

The draft ends with two crossed-out paragraphs of summary and conclusion that Hamilton evidently later deemed redundant, beginning “The observations and facts contained in this paper, while they lead to the conclusions just drawn, serve also to demonstrate, that as far as the conduct of France towards us in our late revolution created a claim to our acknowledgement and friendship [“which under a certain aspect has been conceded” inserted from margin with asterisk] these assertions were immediately due to the then sovereign of the Country and could not have justly withdrawn from him. …” Some of the material in the these final two paragraphs seems to have been reworked from the middle section of the published essay (some nine paragraphs), which is otherwise absent from the present draft.

Hamilton himself considered his Pacificus essays to be the equal of the Federalist essays that he wrote as Publius, even incorporating them into an 1802 edition of The FederalistAs none of his Federalist essays survive in manuscript, the present Pacificus paper may be considered the most important political holograph of Hamilton in private hands.