Lot 1052
  • 1052

Philip Hamilton

8,000 - 12,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Autograph letter signed ("P. Hamilton") to his father, Alexander Hamilton, ("Dear Papa"), discussing his schooling and his desire to be "a Good Man"
  • Paper, ink
2 pages (9 7/8 x 7 7/8 in.; 253 x 200 mm) on a bifolium, New York, 21 April 1797, autograph address on integral leaf ("Alexander Hamilton Esqr. | Albany"); rough seal tear into one word of text. 


The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Syrett, 21:53–54 (letter not seen; text taken from James A. Hamilton, Reminiscences of James A. Hamilton (New York, 1869), p. 15, and Allan McLane Hamilton, The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1910), pp. 216–17, with many errors in wording, paragraphing, capitalization, and  punctuation)

Catalogue Note

The only known letter from Philip Hamilton to his father, lost from sight for more than a century, and quoting his contention that the American Revolution kindled the “sacred fire of freedom.”

The oldest child of Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton was killed in a duel at the age of nineteen, little more than two years before his father met his fate in a similar contest of honor (see lot 1061). In the present letter, the fifteen-year-old Philip, who had demonstrated the same intellectual precocity as his father, complains of interference from William Samuel Johnson, president of Columbia College, with the text of a speech the young student was set to deliver.

The letter opens in a prosaic manner, reporting that Philip Schuyler has purchased for him some shares in a tontine plan, which is essentially a private annuity or pension fund: “I just now received the inclosed Letter from Grand papa In answer to a letter I wrote to him In which he has inclosed to me three receipts for shares in Tontine tavern, amounting to 100£. I have Given the receipts to Mama;”

He then turns, mid-sentence, to his disappointment that the line that he considered the “best and most animated” in a planned speech had been cut by his college president.

“I delivered my speech to Dr. Johnson to examine, he has no objection to my speaking it, But he has Blotted out that sentence which appears to be the best & most animated in it which is, you may recollect it, 'Americans you have fought the Battles of mankind, you have enkindled that sacred fire of freedom ["which is now" ruled through] &c." The stirring tenor of the sentence in question indicates that Philip’s speech may have been prepared for the coming Fourth of July celebration. There is no doubt that it indicates that he had inherited his father’s patriotic zeal.

The letter then returns to family matters. "Dear Papa will you be so good as to give my thanks to Grand papa for the present he made me but above all for the Good advice his letter Contains—which ["which" repeated and ruled through] I am very sensible of its being extreemly necessary for me to pay particular attention to in order to be a Good Man." Philip concludes, "I remain your most affectionate son,” before adding a postscript: “you will oblige me very much by sending back the Letter I have enclosed to you.”